Repeal Campaign Makes Huge Strides
but Falls 1 Senator Short
By Arnie Alpert
Program Director, AFSC-NH
June 20, 2014
Legislation to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty attracted tremendous political support and won stunning victories in the House of Representatives this year. But it stalled in the State Senate, which voted 12 to 12 on April 17.
That means New Hampshire will end the year as it began, with one man in prison and sentenced to be put to death by the state, and with a rarely used capital murder statute still on the books. As Representative Renny Cushing quipped, “a tie goes to the executioner.” But the state’s political reality has gone through what Kevin Landrigan, the Nashua Telegraph’s long-time State House reporter, called “a seismic shift in legislative attitude from only a year ago.”
With a bulked up staff of skilled organizers supported by donations and foundation grants, the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty mounted a multifaceted campaign involving work with legislative allies, grassroots outreach, skilled use of the news media, mobilization of citizens for hearings and “days of action,” plus decentralized vigils and marches. Talks by national leaders including Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, and Kirk Bloodsworth, who was freed from death row based on DNA evidence that cleared him of responsibility for a Maryland murder, enabled the Coalition to win new supporters and invigorate the old ones for action.
Death Penalty Issues at a Glance
About the Bill
HB 1170 is a bi-partisan bill for repealing the death penalty in NH. Details:
- HB 1170 eliminates the death penalty from all state statutes.
- Those crimes which currently can be classified as “capital murder” will still be classified as “first degree murder,” the mandatory penalty for which is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
- It does not affect anyone currently on death row in NH.
A number of conservatives and libertarians have been voicing their opposition to the death penalty, citing it as a costly, inefficient and unjust government-run program. Among them are: Richard Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com; Ron Paul, former US House of Representatives; Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist; Ken Starr, former US Solicitor General; and many others.
———————————————————————– Download the US Constitution Project’s “Statements from Unlikely Allies on the Death Penalty.” (More resources here.)