House passes repeal 223-116

After about a half hour of debate, the House voted 223-116 to repeal the death penalty today. That’s almost exactly the two-thirds vote we were aiming for. In the days ahead, we’ll be looking at the roll call to see who was absent and how many additional votes we might be able to gain for a possible veto override effort.

Many thanks to the 30+ NHCADP members who came out in the drizzly morning to hold signs, greet lawmakers, and hand out fact sheets, both inside and outside the building. It was great to see so many familiar and new faces. It shows the heart that stands behind our organizational efforts.

Thanks, also, to all of our members who wrote or called their Reps, and wrote letters to the editor. In a conservative-leaning legislature, your efforts very much helped us get to that vote tally.

Our job is not done. We need you to continue to write letters to newspapers over the next few weeks to encourage the governor to sign the bill and to argue for why NH needs to repeal this archaic law. Please use our form here to continue to write these letters.

News coverage:
Concord Monitor


The NH House today 223-116 in favor of SB 593, a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty statute and replace it with the sentence of life in prison without parole. The measure would apply only to capital cases taking place after January 2019. The bill succeeded with broad support from Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians.

Last month, the NH Senate voted 14-10 in favor of the bill. This marks the first time in nearly 20 years – since Governor Jeanne Shaheen’s administration – that both bodies of the New Hampshire legislature have passed a death penalty repeal bill.

Among those taking part in the debate on the floor of the House today was Representative Richard O’Leary (D-Manchester), former Deputy Chief and 33-year veteran of the Manchester Police Department.

Speaking about his six adult children, among whom are two school teachers, a nurse, and a policeman, O’Leary asked, “If I’m a lawmaker or on a jury, how do I choose for which kind of victim the perpetrator should get death, and for which kind he shouldn’t?”  O’Leary argued that the state should not be making distinctions among categories of victims. “Every murder is heinous to the ones who lose a loved one,” he said.

During the floor debate, repeal advocates cited the exorbitant costs of death penalty cases, the possibility of executing an innocent person, the lack of evidence for its value in deterring  homicides, and the perspective of many murder victim family members that the death penalty does not serve their needs.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Representative Robert “Renny” Cushing (D-Hampton), whose father and brother-in-law were both murdered, said, “The death penalty does not do the one thing that family members of victims most want: it does not bring their loved ones back.”

Barbara Keshen, Chair of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NHCADP), said after the vote, “Today’s strong bi-partisan vote marks a watershed moment for the New Hampshire death penalty abolition movement. The overwhelming support for repeal demonstrates the growing consensus that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty. We encourage Governor Sununu to respect the will of the legislature and sign SB 593 into law.”

Gov. Sununu has publicly indicated that he would veto the bill. NHCADP representatives indicated they would work towards a veto override if that happens.

New Hampshire currently has one person on death row. No one has been executed in our state since 1939.

House Committee Votes for Repeal, 12-6

On Monday, April 17, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12-6 (see tally below) in favor of an “ought to pass” recommendation on SB 593, after nearly an hour of discussion. The vote was bi-partisan. Unfortunately, a couple of our supporters in that committee were not present, or the vote would have been even stronger.  Still, this sends a powerful message to the full House before it takes up the bill next week.

To watch a video of the complete debate and vote, please click here. Read the Concord Monitor’s coverage of the vote here.

What’s next? The full House will debate and vote on the bill most likely next week. That means we have almost 400 representatives to reach. We need you to continue to reach out to your House Reps over the next week. The better our showing in the House, the more difficult it will be for the Governor to ignore the will of the people. Please visit our Letter-to-the-Editor and Write-Your-Legislator pages to take action ASAP. Thank you!

And we also need to do all that we can to encourage Governor Sununu to retreat from his promise to veto the bill should it come to his desk. Please write him as soon as possible. Our work is far from over.

We hope you will join us when the full House takes up SB593 for a large demonstration before the session, to and greet the Reps as they enter the chamber.  A strong showing of citizen report for repeal can make a real difference.

Criminal Justice Committee votes on “Ought to Pass” Motion:

Bonnie Ham R not present
Jody McNally R yes
Kate Murray D yes
Linn Opderbecke D yes
Dave Testerman R no
Scott Wallace R no
Larry Gagne R not present
Dennis Green R no
John Burt R yes
Roger Berube D yes
Delmar Burridge D yes
Shannon Chandley D yes
Renny Cushing D yes
Robert Fesh R yes
Dennis Fields R no
Carolyn Gargasz R yes
Richard O’Leary D yes
Laura Pantelakos D not present
Beth Rodd D yes
David Welch R no
Frank Sapareto R no