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Hearing on death penalty repeal today


CONCORD — Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick will testify today in support of repealing the state's death penalty for capital murder.

He will be joined by other retired judges, several former attorneys general, former police officers and religious leaders in support of the repeal.

"The death penalty does nothing for public safety, fails the families of murder victims, costs far more than the alternatives and conflicts with the moral teachings of our society's major religious traditions," said Barbara Keshen, NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Chair and a former state prosecutor.

Repeal opponents argue the death penalty is a deterrent for criminals and there are some crimes so heinous crimes that the perpetrators do not deserve to live.

Many in the law enforcement community are expected to turn out to oppose the bill.

Along with Broderick, former chief justice of the superior court system Walter Murphy is expected to testify in favor of the bill along with former attorneys generals Phil McLaughlin and Gregory Smith, and retired Manchester Deputy Police Chief Richard O'Leary.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches are also expected to testify for repeal.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who opposes repeal, said he expects a close vote in the Senate that could go either way or even tie, which would kill the bill.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she would sign the bill as long as it would not change the sentence of Michael Addison, the state's lone prisoner on death row, who was convicted of capital murder for killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

HB 1170 would bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, the bill's prime sponsor. If the bill is approved, crimes under the state's capital murder law would still be prosecuted as first-degree murder with the mandatory penalty of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

House Bill 1170 will have a public hearing beginning at 9 a.m. before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Representatives Hall.

The House passed the bill by a 225-104 margin last month.

grayno@unionleader.com

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