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12-12 Senate Deadlock Preserves Death Penalty

NHPR Staff

Michael Briggs, the Manchester Police officer shot in the line of duty in 2006, and his killer, Michael Addison, who now sits on death row, both loomed large in the debate.

An indication of how large could be seen in the front row of the senate gallery.

That’s where Manchester police officials, including the chief and he lead investigator of the Briggs muder stood in full uniform the whole time. 15 feet down in the senate floor Michael Briggs name came up almost immediately – by people on both sides of the issue.

Here’s Donna Soucy, who represents the district in which Briggs was shot. She  backed the death penalty repeal.

"I know that people around this state honor the service of Michael Briggs." 

And here’s fellow Manchester Democrat Lou D’Allesandro:

"Michael Briggs, I wear his badge number every day."

He voted to keep capital punishment:

"We cant take of Michael Briggs family as we'd like to. The differences with that occur in that family will be with them until the day that they die."

Almost all who spoke, spoke of the weight of this vote.

Senator Bob Odell  of Lempster said he’d always favored the death penalty, and railed against the brutal murders that have taken place in N.H.  But the fact that the state may actually put a man to death -- and that he’s now a grandfather -- prompted Odell to look again.

"And I know for some of you the answer to this issue is I am always against the for the death penalty; for some other I am always for it. And I’ve always been for it, and today I am going to vote for repeal, because I don’t know how I will explain to a six year old and a four year old, when that bad person on death row is executed. I can’t rationalize it."   

But others said they couldn’t rationalize supporting a repeal – or a proposed amendment that aimed to ensure the repeal would only cover crimes committed after July 1st.  But for the opposite reason --that Michael Addison’s death sentence might be tossed on appeal.

Jeb Bradley is Senate Majority Leader.

"I believe, and I believe most scholars believe, that the Supreme Court and the US Consitution will not allow a retroactive implementation of the death penalty with a prospective repeal, nor should it be allowed."

In the end, every Republicans save for Senator Odell and Senator Sam Cataldo, of Farmington, voted to keep the death penalty; and every democrat, save for Senator D’Allesandro voted to repeal it.

"After tie votes to pass and kill the bill left it in limbo.  The Senate did then act with unanimity to lay the repeal on the table."

That move likely ends the issues consideration this year. But if the numbers change, the bill could be re-debated. Under senate rules, after May 1st passing the bill would require a 2/3rds vote.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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