The ruling in New Hampshire v. Michael Addison is available in Adobe .pdf format.
The AP report is, "NH court sets standards for death sentence review," by Lynne Tuohy, via the Nashua Telegraph.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court said it will review the fairness of Michael Addison’s death sentence against cases in other states in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty.
The court’s ruling sets the groundwork for deciding whether Addison becomes the first person executed in New Hampshire since 1939. Addison is on death row for gunning down Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs four years ago as Briggs attempted to arrest him on robbery charges.
Addison’s lawyers said they will ask the court to reconsider its ruling, saying the test devised by the justices excludes the only other New Hampshire capital case in decades to go to a penalty phase – that of murder-for-hire convict John Brooks.
Brooks was convicted in 2008 of plotting and paying for the murder of a handyman he suspected of stealing from him. The jury opted to give him life in prison without parole.
The court said in its ruling Wednesday that Brooks’ case would not come into play in the Addison review because he was not convicted of killing a police officer.
“We have one other capital verdict in this state that was almost contemporaneous with the Addison verdict,” Attorney David Rothstein said. “At what point should there be an explanation of why New Hampshire jurors saved one person and sentenced another to death.”
Addison’s lawyers also argued the court should examine the case of Gordon Perry, who fatally shot an Epsom police officer in 1997. Prosecutors agreed to let Perry plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.
The court agreed that comparisons with in-state cases is preferable, because they more reflect local community values, but said the pool of capital cases in New Hampshire is too small.
Defense lawyers have 10 days to file their motion for reconsideration, but Rothstein said they may ask for an extension.
In its 41-page unanimous ruling, the justices rejected another defense proposal that Addison’s case be compared to all death penalty-eligible cases in New Hampshire and other states to determine whether racial bias or other factors influenced his sentence. Addison is black; Briggs was white.
In deciding whether it was fair for a jury to give Michael Addison the death penalty for killing a Manchester police officer, the state Supreme Court will compare Addison's sentence with those imposed in other states where a defendant was convicted of killing an officer.
The court will not, however, compare the sentence with those imposed in other cases eligible for the death penalty in New Hampshire, including the case of John "Jay" Brooks, a white man who was convicted in 2008 of murder for hire but was sentenced to life in prison.
Lawyers for Addison, who is black and was convicted that same year in the shooting death of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs, had asked the court to review the Brooks case along with other New Hampshire cases in which a defendant was eligible for the death penalty but didn't receive it - whether because the jury gave a lesser sentence, prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty or the defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
But the court, which issued an opinion on that request yesterday, said it would follow the guidelines prosecutors had sought, limiting its review to cases in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty and the defendant was sentenced to death or life in prison.
Addison is the first New Hampshire man to receive a death sentence in nearly 50 years. He is also the only New Hampshire man to be sentenced by a jury for killing a police officer under the state's current law, which was enacted in 1977 and requires all death sentences be reviewed to ensure they're proportional to the sentences imposed for similar crimes.
That means the justices will have to look out of state for comparisons. While Addison's lawyers say it's reasonable to consider his sentence in the context of cases in other states involving the same crime, they think the justices should also consider local jury decisions in cases eligible for the death penalty, even if the type of murder is different.
"What is fair and just in New Hampshire should be first decided by looking at New Hampshire cases," appellate defender David Rothstein said yesterday. "What a Mississippi jury does, does that tell you what the local index is?"
"NH Supreme Court sets guidelines for death penalty review," by Pat Grossmith in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The death sentence leveled against cop-killer Michael K. Addison will not be thrown out unless it is out-of-line with other death penalty cases across the country, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
In a ruling issued today, the court said it will make that determination by comparing the case to sentences imposed in other capital murder cases of on-duty police officers in other states. As a result, the court will not compare the case to that of millionaire John "Jay" Brooks - convicted of capital murder in the slaying of a Derry handyman - who was given a life-sentence.
The state had argued that the two crimes were not similar and therefore should not be compared to determine if the death sentence issued against Addison, convicted of killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in August 2008, is excessive.