CONCORD — The Senate took little time Thursday to reject repealing the death penalty, not wanting to debate the issue a second time this session.
On a voice vote, the Senate refused to go along with the House and killed Senate Bill 202, which contained the death penalty repeal language from House Bill 1170, which remains on the table in the Senate after members deadlocked 12-12.
Last week, the House reiterated its desire to end the state’s death penalty
Repeal supporters say lawmakers need another opportunity to vote on the issue after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, when the lethal injection process went awry leaving him alive until he died later from a massive heart attack.
“There is not an ounce of evidence the death penalty keeps anyone safe,” said Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover. “One of government’s jobs is to reduce crime. The death penalty does not reduce crime.” He added government should not be deciding who should live and who should die.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, reminded Senators they could not agree what action to take on the earlier bill and questioned if they wanted to re-debate the issue.
Senators did not and killed the bill on a voice vote.
Opponents of repeal have argued the death penalty sends a message that New Hampshire will not tolerate murder and works as a deterrent.
Law enforcement argued repealing the death penalty would likely lead to a federal court commuting the death sentence of the state’s lone death row inmate, Michael Addison.
Addison was sentenced to death for murdering Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
After the Senate action, repeal supporters said they were disappointed by the Senate’s action but vowed to seek repeal in future legislative sessions.
“The repeal movement in New Hampshire made tremendous progress this year,” said Barbara Keshen, board chair of New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “We witnessed the strongest House votes ever with greater than 2-to-1 margins and clear bi-partisan support.”
The prime sponsor of HB 1170, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said several representatives told him the botched execution in Oklahoma last month changed their minds about repeal.
“I was approached by previous repeal opponents in the House saying that recent events had changed their minds,” said Cushing, a long-time repeal advocate. “Given time and increased exposure to the deep flaws in the death penalty system, I believe more legislators will come to oppose the death penalty.”
There is little to no chance the death penalty repeal will resurface in the final weeks of the session.