Today's Concord Monitor publishes the editorial, "Bloodsworth case should give death penalty supporters pause."
It’s hard to imagine a more compelling argument against the death penalty than the remarkable case of Kirk Bloodsworth, an innocent man who narrowly escaped lethal injection and now devotes his life to fighting capital punishment across the country.
Bloodsworth, who met with Monitor editors last week, was in New Hampshire to aid a group pushing to repeal the state’s death penalty. For legislators on the fence – and even those secure in their support for the statute – his story is worth paying attention to. His simple, powerful message will no doubt give pause to even the most resolute supporters of capital punishment: If this could happen to me, it could happen to you.
Bloodsworth speaks compellingly about how the prosecutors in his two trials were smart and competent and still botched his case. And, more chilling still, when he initially attempted to get his hands on the case evidence to submit it to DNA testing, he was told by the prosecutor that it had been inadvertently destroyed. Then, through the sort of luck that happens only in Hollywood, Bloodsworth’s lawyer had a chance encounter with a court clerk who told him otherwise: Hidden away in the judge’s closet, the evidence was intact.
Evidence does get lost or destroyed. Good lawyers, judges and juries do make mistakes. Innocent people can be wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, wrongly put to death. Without capital punishment, New Hampshire could make sure that the worst of these wrongs would never happen here.
"NH Group Announcing Effort To Repeal Death Penalty," is the AP report via New Hampshire Public Radio.
The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is announcing a new effort to repeal the state's capital punishment law.
The coalition is holding a news conference Thursday to discuss the effort. State Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, is sponsoring a bill to repeal the law. The news conference will feature speakers including Cushing, whose father was shot to death with a shotgun in 1988.
The Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty in 2000, but U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who was governor then, vetoed the bill. The House passed a repeal bill in 2009, but it later died in the Senate.
"'It could have happened to anyone, anywhere',” is by Annmarie Rimmins of the Concord Monitor.
Kirk Bloodsworth was a 22-year-old honorably discharged Marine who’d never been in trouble when he was convicted in 1985 of the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Maryland. He was sentenced to death row.
Bloodsworth was innocent.
Still, he spent eight years, 10 months and 19 days in prison before he proved it. In 1993, Bloodsworth became the first person exonerated by DNA evidence when the semen on the victim’s underwear pointed to another man, not Bloodsworth.
That man pleaded guilty and Bloodsworth, later pardoned, received $300,000 from Maryland for his wrongful incarceration.
It’s no surprise the experience changed Bloodsworth’s thinking on the death penalty. He was in New Hampshire last week sharing his story with hopes it will have a similar affect on others, especially lawmakers who will debate repealing the death penalty next year.
“When I was a Marine, I felt people got what they deserved,” Bloodsworth, 53, said during an interview with the Monitor. “But . . . if this could happen to an honorably discharged Marine with no criminal record, it could have happened to anyone, anywhere.”
According to the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate prisoners with DNA evidence, 311 people in the United States have been cleared by DNA, 18 of them after serving time on death row. Bloodsworth, of Pennsylvania, is now advocacy director for the group.
The Monitor also reports, "State Senate divided on death penalty repeal," by Timmins.
The Legislature has debated repealing the death penalty twice in the last 13 years and came closest when repeal passed both chambers in 2000 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Lawmakers will take up repeal again in January – with renewed optimism.
Unlike Shaheen and former governor John Lynch, Gov. Maggie Hassan said on the campaign trail that she’d sign a repeal of the death penalty if it reached her desk. Her spokesman said last week her position hasn’t changed.
“Gov. Hassan supports life in prison without parole for heinous crimes,” Marc Goldberg said in an email. “As a matter of faith and conscience, she does not support the death penalty.” Goldberg said that Hassan, however, will listen to all arguments “in order to honor and respect the emotions and beliefs of all those involved.”
The state’s death penalty law allows the use of capital punishment for a narrow set of crimes: the murder of a law enforcement official; murder for hire; murder during a kidnapping, drug sale, home invasion or rape; and murder while serving a life sentence in prison.
With the corner office on their side, advocates are focused on the state Senate. Unlike the House, which supported a repeal in 2000 and 2009, the Senate backed repeal only in 2000. Last week, the Monitor called all 24 senators for their position on a repeal bill and connected with 18. Seven said they’d oppose a repeal and six said they’d support it. The other five, two of whom have voted against repeal in the past, said they are undecided.