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Addison's case first time court ruling on NH death sentence
"They have approved essentially the standards that the (death penalty) statute described; that it is not unconstitutional to have a death penalty in New Hampshire under the state constitution," said Albert Scherr, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
But Addison has another round in state court before taking his appeal to the federal courts.
The justices did not rule a mandatory "proportionality review" of the sentence, which is a look, required by state law, at whether the death penalty for Addison is out of proportion with penalties in similar cases elsewhere.
New Hampshire's old mandatory death penalty was repealed in response to the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Georgia case that led to a moratorium on executions.
Last week's ruling was unanimous and issued "per curiam," Latin for "by the court," meaning it effectively spoke with one voice, since it was without dissent and without ascribing its words to an individual justice.
"They certainly intended to bring as much clarity to the issues that were in front of them so that going forward the same issues were not relitigated again," Scherr said. "It dealt with some of the basic issues; it's going to take something dramatically different to be relitigated."
"To the extent that you have cases where there are unanimous views, there is an idea it is a stronger precedent," Corcoran said. "I think the court was able to come to a place where they all agree you have a sense the decision carries more weight."
That ruling means the court has said it will not compare the murder of Briggs to the murder-for-hire conviction of businessman John Brooks a few years ago. Brooks escaped the death penalty and was sentenced to life in one of only two other capital cases in New Hampshire since the new law was adopted.
In sentencing Addison to die, jurors unanimously found that the murder of officer Briggs was not premeditated and was not intentional. If the penalty is upheld, Addison could seek to have a federal court rule his case should have been compared to cases in which no death penalty was imposed because the killer lacked premeditation, since the jury decided there was no premeditation in the murder of Briggs.
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