By Lynne Tuohy
The Associated Press
---- — CONCORD, N.H. — For the first time in more than half a century, New Hampshire’s Supreme Court today will rule on the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty and whether the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a police officer will stand.
The court will release its ruling in the appeal of Michael Addison, who was sentenced to death in 2008 for gunning down Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs two years earlier as the officer was trying to arrest him in connection with a string of violent robberies. Addison is the only inmate on New Hampshire’s death row.
Besides the issues Addison’s lawyers raised on appeal a year ago, the court will also review the fairness of his death sentence — comparing it to cases in other states in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty.
If the court vacates Addison’s death sentence, prosecutors would be barred from seeking the death penalty again. If it upholds the death sentence, Addison could become the first person executed in New Hampshire since 1939.
Addison’s lawyer, David Rothstein, argued that holding the trial in Manchester — in a courthouse 100 yards from police headquarters — injected passion and prejudice into the case. Prosecutors countered that both sides worked to guarantee a fair trial and that jurors certified their verdict was not influenced by arbitrary factors.
The ruling comes as the New Hampshire Coalition Against the Death Penalty is launching a new campaign to repeal the death penalty. Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she would sign a repeal bill if it did not invalidate Addison’s sentence.
Briggs, 35, was 15 minutes from the end of his shift on Oct. 16, 2006, when he and his partner — both on bicycle patrol — confronted Addison in a dark alley. Jurors found that Addison shot Briggs in the head at close range to avoid arrest.
Addison was also convicted of a violent rampage in the days leading up to Briggs’ death, including two armed robberies and a drive-by shooting.