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Death penalty repeal again before the House

CONCORD — For the second time this session, the House will take up repealing the state’s death penalty for capital murder.

The House first voted 225-104 in March to pass House Bill 1170. Last month, the Senate split 12-12 on whether the repeal should move forward; that bill was tabled.

On Wednesday, the House will first decide whether to OK the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s decision to attach the death penalty repeal bill to Senate Bill 202, which makes a small change in a burglary law. If the House votes to attach HB 1170 to SB 202 and approves the bill, the Senate would have to decide whether to approve the change.

House Bill 1170’s prime sponsor, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said since last month several events have occurred that might make at least one senator change his or her mind — a botched execution in Oklahoma and a National Academy of Sciences report concluding that between 1973 and 2004, more than 4 percent of those sentenced to death were innocent.

“The events in Oklahoma warrant giving legislators another opportunity this year to get New Hampshire out of the execution business,” Cushing said.

Barbara Keshen, chair of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said lawmakers should have another opportunity to decide the issue, and replace death by lethal injection or hanging with life without parole.

“The botched execution of Clayton Lockett recently in Oklahoma is yet another piece of evidence that the death penalty needs to be put behind us,” Keshen said. “We cannot have the death penalty in a nation that bars cruel and unusual punishment as one of its fundamental legal principles.”

Members of law enforcement packed the Senate gallery when the repeal was debated last month.

Law enforcement believes the death penalty is a deterrent and needs to remain in law. Law enforcement and others have argued if the state repeals the death penalty, the state’s lone death row inmate, Michael Addison, would likely have his sentence commuted by a federal court.

Addison was sentenced to death for murdering Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

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