The Concord Monitor reports, "With Hassan in office, death penalty’s days could be numbered." It's written by Tricia L. Nadolny.
For the first time in decades, opponents of the death penalty will have a governor in office who agrees with them.
But legislators who will be crafting a bill to repeal the state’s capital punishment law say it’s unlikely that it would affect the state’s sole person on death row, Michael Addison.
But it’s not because the Legislature couldn’t try to spare Addison, who is facing execution for the 2006 murder of a Manchester police officer Michael Briggs, if it wished.
While changes to the criminal code aren’t typically retroactive, a bill could include language making the repeal “going backwards and going forwards,” according to Buzz Scherr, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
“But they’d have to do that explicitly,” Scherr said.
Gov. John Lynch has been a strong supporter of the death penalty during his four terms in office, vowing to veto a repeal if one passed and signing into law an expansion of the death penalty statute that allows those responsible for murders during home invasions to be eligible for death.
Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, on the other hand, said multiple times during her campaign that she opposes capital punishment “as a matter of personal conscience and faith” and wouldn’t have signed the expansion as Lynch did.
She has stipulated, though, that she wouldn’t commute Addison’s sentence.
“It was the law on our books in New Hampshire when he was convicted of his crime, and I do trust and believe in our criminal justice system and our courts system,” Hassan said during a televised debate before the Democratic primary. “But as a matter of personal faith and conscience, I oppose the death penalty. I do, however, support life in prison without parole for certain heinous crimes.”
For lawmakers seeking a repeal, her stance opens the door for a new dialogue and clears the way for abolition down the road.
Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat who is working on repeal legislation that could be introduced in the session starting in January, said he doesn’t foresee trying to make the new bill retroactive. Instead, he expects the bill will follow the lead set in states such as New Mexico and Connecticut, where recent repeals have only affected new cases.
“In some ways, it’s a cleaner bill,” said Cushing, who will soon rejoin the House after loosing his seat in 2010. “It’s talking about the future rather than what transpired in the past.”