By Lynne Tuohy
The Associated Press
---- — CONCORD — The former chief justice of New Hampshire’s Supreme Court urged senators yesterday to repeal the state’s death penalty, saying New Hampshire is better than countries like North Korea and Iraq that embrace capital punishment.
John Broderick, now dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said he once reluctantly supported the death penalty, but now believes judges shouldn’t administer a sentence that doesn’t come with an eraser.
Broderick, who served as chief justice for six years, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that life in prison is an adequate sentence. He said he has been going to prison twice a week for the three years since he stepped down from the court.
“It is a sad, demeaning and hopeless place,” Broderick said. “I hope New Hampshire does not miss this opportunity to stand up and stand out in the 21st century.”
Kensington police Chief Michael Sielicki, head of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, called the death penalty a “strategic tool ... to deal with the worst of the worst.”
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she supports repeal as long as it is does not affect the death sentence of Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
A proposed bill applies to future cases only, but Sielicki says a federal judge might decide to commute Addison’s sentence.
“We cannot let that happen,” he said.
Four of the six states that repealed capital punishment in the past six years did so prospectively and left convicts on death row, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, told the committee.
In Illinois, Dieter said, the governor commuted all the death sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole. But prisoners remain under death sentences in three other states: 11 in Connecticut, five in Maryland and two in New Mexico.
The House passed the repeal measure, 225-104, last month. Lawmakers predict a close vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Rep. Renny Cushing, the bill’s sponsor, said yesterday that many senators are still making up their minds.
“It’s very fluid,” he said.
Both Cushing’s father and brother-in-law were murdered, but Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, said he has not let their deaths shake his opposition to the death penalty.
“That would give the killer more power,” he said.
Cushing acknowledged yesterday that the repealing the death penalty is one of the most difficult policy decisions the Legislature faces — one fraught with emotion.
“People on both sides of the issues are coming from a sense of morality and personal faith,” Cushing said.
The Legislature voted to repeal capital punishment in 2000, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed the bill.
Bud Welch, whose 23-year-old daughter was among 168 killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, told the committee that the execution of Timothy McVeigh only “revictimized” the families of his victims.
“Nothing about that process brought me any peace,” said Welch, who estimates he’s come to New Hampshire to testify against the death penalty at least seven times, including in 2000.
“I plead with you to make this my last trip to New Hampshire on the death penalty,” Welch said.