Andrea LeBlanc, who lost her husband in the second plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, speaks against the death penalty at the Legislative Office Building. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)
CONCORD — Death penalty opponents have delivered a petition with more than 50,000 signatures to Gov. Chris Sununu, urging him to sign the death penalty repeal that has passed both House and Senate by large, but not veto-proof, margins.
Sununu has said he plans to veto the bill, largely in response to opposition from law enforcement and the families of murder victims.
But several of those families appeared at a State House news conference on Thursday before delivering their petitions, regarding SB 593, the death penalty repeal bill.
Among the speakers was Andrea LeBlanc, who lost her husband, a UNH professor, in the second plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Others included state Rep. Robert “Renny” Cushing, D-Hampton, who lost his father and brother-in-law to murder, and Margaret Hawthorn, whose daughter was shot and killed at her home in Henniker in 2010.
Sununu has promised to veto SB 593, which proposes replacing the death penalty with the sentence of life in prison without parole for the crimes that fall under the state’s narrow capital murder statute.
A two-thirds majority of lawmakers present and voting will be needed to override a veto. The Senate was just two votes short of the 16 votes needed to override when it voted in March, and the House was just one vote shy of override numbers when it voted in April.
If there is a veto override vote taken, attendance will be the key factor as it will most likely happen over the summer.
The state’s death penalty has not been used since 1939, and no one was on death row for decades until Michael Addison was convicted in the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2008.
The prospect of Addison’s sentence being reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole dominated much of the debate, with opponents of repeal calling for justice on behalf of the officer’s surviving family.
Cushing said last week he is confident the House will have the votes to override a veto, and hopeful that two Senate votes can be swayed.
“Gov. Sununu should respect the will of our state’s duly elected legislators, including many members of his own party, who have spoken loudly and clearly that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty,” he said.
The bill is still awaiting key signatures from legislative leaders before it can be enrolled for submission to the governor, after which he will have five days to sign, veto or let the bill become law without his signature.