New Hampshire Poised To Repeal Its Death Penalty Law

The state House and Senate have enough votes to override an expected veto by GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday passed a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty, putting the measure on track to become law.

The 17-6 Senate vote follows a 279-88 House vote for repeal last month. If those margins hold, they would provide enough to override an expected veto from Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who supports capital punishment and blocked a similar measure that passed through the state Legislature.

After Thursday’s vote, Sununu’s office reiterated his opposition to the repeal but did not say he would again veto the measure.

The governor “continues to stand with crime victims, members of the law enforcement community, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty,” his office said in a statement to HuffPost

New Hampshire has just one inmate on death row ― Michael Addison, 39, who was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of police officer Michael Briggs. Addison does not have an execution date, and the state does not have an existing execution chamber. New Hampshire law designates lethal injection as the primary means of execution, with death by hanging as a backup if the drugs for the former are not available.

The ACLU’s New Hampshire chapter applauded the Senate vote.

“As we have said time and again, the death penalty is not a partisan issue. The death penalty’s history of deep injustices, skyrocketing costs, and entrenched discrimination defy party lines and summon our common humanity to end this archaic practice,” said Jeanne Hruska, the group’s political director, in a statement. “We are hopeful that 2019 will indeed be the year that New Hampshire repeals the death penalty.”

The death penalty is currently authorized in 30 states, though in 18 of those bills have been introduced this year to limit its application or repeal it altogether. Four of those states have governor-issued moratoriums on capital punishment, including California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last month called the practice “inconsistent with our bedrock values.”

“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom said upon issuing the moratorium.

The Washington state Supreme Court in October unanimously struck down capital punishment, deeming it “racially biased” and unconstitutional.

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