Gov. Sununu vetoes SB 593

In a ceremony in his capitol office, Gov. Sununu today stamped a veto on SB 593, a bill to repeal the death penalty. The governor was flanked by over a dozen police officers  as well as murder victim family members, including Laura Briggs, the wife of slain Manchester officer Michael Briggs.

These are groups which Sununu had, since the introduction of the bill earlier this year, claimed he was supporting by his promise to oppose its passage. However,  numerous death penalty repeal advocates — representing NH law enforcement and corrections veterans as well as murder victim family members — were refused personal meetings with Sununu despite ongoing requests over the past several months.

Members of the Coalition were actively barred entry from the ceremony.  Two of our advocates, Rep. Richard O’Leary, former Deputy Chief with Manchester Police Department, and Laura Bonk, with our murder victim family member community, were present today. Both of these individuals spoke at our press conferences last month (see earlier posts).

The NH Press who were on hand at the ceremony today took note of our exclusion. WMUR and the Nashua Telegraph in particular took the time to speak with us.

Gov. Sununu’s statement that accompanied the veto this morning can be found here: Sununu SB593 Veto Statement.

Press coverege:

  • WMUR’s coverage can be seen here. (Video only here.)
  • The Union Leader’s coverage is here.
  • The Nashua Telegraph’s coverage is here.
  • AP’s coverage is here.
Next Steps

We will need two more votes in the NH Senate, and also 2/3 of the House (of those present and voting) in order to override the governor’s veto. The legislature is expected to be called back into session to weigh in on gubernatorial vetoes sometime after the state primaries in September.

We will be holding some public events later this summer and early fall in anticipation of the override vote.

More details coming soon!

Murder Victim Family Press Conference


Watch the recorded Facebook Livestream here.
Watch the YouTube Video here.
Listen to the mp3 audio file here


56,502 signatures for repeal

Murder victim family members from New Hampshire held a press conference in Concord today, before delivering over 50,000 petition signatures* to Gov. Sununu, urging him to pass SB 593, the death penalty repeal bill, into law.

Those speaking today included family members of people killed during the 9/11 tragedy. Andrea LeBlanc, who lost her husband in the second plane to hit the World Trade Center, said, “my pain and loss could not be removed or remedied through vengeance or by acts of retaliation,” before urging the Governor to sign death penalty repeal legislation currently en route to his desk.

Margaret Hawthorn delivers signatures to Governor’s Office

Representative Robert “Renny” Cushing (D-Hampton), who lost his father and brother-in-law to murder, said, “Executing those who kill does not do the one thing we want most – to bring back our loved ones.”  Cushing expressed disappointment that Gov. Sununu has thus far failed to meet in person with any of the murder victim family members who have approached his office.

Margaret Hawthorn, whose daughter was shot and killed at her home in Henniker in 2010, said, “For me, the best possible outcome would be to see the man who killed my daughter make a positive contribution with the life he is now to live in prison. To see him do something constructive would be to give me back a tiny piece of the goodness that lived in my daughter. There is no promise this will happen, but an execution would guarantee it couldn’t.”

Gov. Sununu has promised to veto SB 593, citing his support for murder victim family members  as one of his major reasons. Victim family members at the press conference, with whom Gov. Sununu has declined to meet, challenged him to consider their viewpoints. Some questioned the utility of spending millions of dollars on a single death penalty case, claiming that the critical needs of victim families, such as grief counseling and restitution of lost wages, remain unaddressed.

Rep. Cushing, who helped organize the press conference, has led death penalty repeal efforts in the NH House for nearly two decades. The current repeal bill, SB 593, recently passed both houses of the NH Legislature with broad bipartisan support. The bill proposes replacing the death penalty with the sentence of life in prison without parole for the crimes that fall under the capital murder statute. If signed, the law would apply only for crimes taking place after the bill’s passage.

When later asked about Gov. Sununu’s promise to veto SB 593, Rep. Cushing said, “Gov. Sununu should respect the will of our state’s duly elected legislators, including many members of his own party, who have spoken loudly and clearly that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty.” In the event of a veto, Cushing said that death penalty repeal advocates would work to secure enough votes to override the veto.

News coverage of the event:
  • Union Leader
  • Concord Monitor [Please note that the Monitor Implies that Gov. Sununu responded to our requests to meet, despite our claims that he did not. Let’s be clear:  we specifically asked to meet personally with the Governor, and he (through his staff) declined multiple times.]
Related Concord Monitor article from 5/23:


* Our gratitude and kudos go out to our fabulous national partners for developing the petition and delivering 56,502 signatures to support our efforts in NH: Equal Justice USA, Daily Kos, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, Death Penalty Focus, and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.