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April 05. 2014 12:11AM

Keep NH death penalty: No good reasons to repeal it

There is no reason for New Hampshire to repeal its death penalty. There are plenty of reasons to leave it in place.

Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs is one such reason. His murder at the hands of a cold-blooded killer remains fresh in the minds and hearts of his fellow law enforcement officers and of the citizens he was sworn to protect. Because of this, note the "except for Addison'' position of certain death penalty opponents, notably Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, and public opinion agrees, that the death penalty is not "cruel and unusual punishment,'' its foes claim that it is.

If that is so, isn't it particularly "cruel and unusual punishment'' for Michael Addision to spend years knowing that New Hampshire isn't going to put anyone to death, except him?

What would be cruel and unusual is for the police who risk their lives to protect us to know that the public and our elected representatives no longer have their backs when it comes to something so important as the ultimate penalty for one who murders them.

Other "repeal'' arguments were trotted out last week at a Concord hearing. One holds that there is no evidence that the death penalty deters a murderer. Well, no, that is not exactly so. The death penalty deters a dead murderer.

Another argument, from certain religious leaders, is that putting someone to death leaves no room for personal redemption. We are not certain how much room is needed for this, but we know that the murderer's victim has no time, no room, nothing.

The least credible argument is that of monetary cost. It costs more to try a capital murder case, it is said, than to keep an inmate imprisoned for life. Perhaps so. But that doesn't say much for the worth of a police officer, does it? And how many cases have there been where "imprisoned for life'' meant something else to a judge years later?

Finally, there is something to be said for the old Yankee expression, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

New Hampshire, which has had the death penalty on its books for as long as it has had those books, has rarely had occasion to use it. The last time was 75 years ago.

That is just as good an argument for retaining it as for repealing it and reaping an unknown whirlwind.


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