CONCORD — When the time came to vote on a bill to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee must have thought everything that can be said about capital punishment has been said in multiple public hearings over the past two years.
There was little discussion and no debate on Tuesday as the committee voted 4-1 to send the repeal bill, HB 455, to the 24-member Senate with an “ought to pass” recommendation.
Voting in favor were Sens. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover; Melanie Levesque, D-Nashua; Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst; and Harold French, R-Franklin. Voting against was Republican Sen. Sharon Carson of Hudson.
The bill passed the House on March 7 in a 279-88 roll call.
Levesque alluded to the hours of testimony from death penalty opponents in both House and Senate hearings.
“The thing that stuck with me is if you continue to have appeals, then it brings the (victim’s) loved ones through the whole thing over and over again,” she said, referring to the years of legal wrangling that follow a death sentence.
French, who voted for repeal last year, said he was more convinced than ever after another round of public hearings this year.
“Having listened to the testimony, my feelings are stronger than last time,” he said. “Although there are probably a handful of good reasons to keep the death penalty in place in the state, I think it’s overwhelmingly been proven there are more reasons to get rid of it.”
One reason to keep the death penalty on the books, according to proponents, is to assure the execution of Michael Addison, now on death row for the 2006 murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.
Manchester’s three Democratic state senators have split on the issue in the past, with senators Lou D’Allesandro and Kevin Cavanaugh voting against repeal, while Senate President Donna Soucy has voted to end the death penalty.
“The senators clearly heard the compelling testimony on the death penalty last week,” said Arnie Alpert, board member of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, after the committee session. “We’re optimistic about the prospect of the bill passing when it comes to the full Senate.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, saying he “stands with law enforcement,” promises to veto the repeal bill this year, just as he did last year.
This year’s repeal bill, however, has already passed the House by a veto-proof margin, and appears to have the needed 16 votes in the Senate to override the anticipated veto.
The bill goes to a floor vote in the Senate next Thursday.