Submitted by Rep. Cushing OTPA 14-4
Pursuant to House Rule 45 b, the Majority of the committee voted to amend SB 202 to include language repealing the death penalty. The amended bill is consistent with HB 1170 which the House passed on March 12 by a 225-104 margin.
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee discussed events that transpired since that House vote on the death penalty that provide additional information about use of the capital punishment and the need for our state to change its policy. In late March Amnesty International reported the United States in the top 5 countries in the world in terms of the use of the death penalty last year, along with China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and ahead of such countries as Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Vietnam. Being in the company of countries that are such human rights violators in not a place where we as a state and nation want to be. Several weeks ago the prestigious National Academy of Sciences issued a report that concluded that more than 4% of those sentenced to death in the US from 193-2004 were innocent, reinforcing the words of Former Chief Justice John Broderick that New Hampshire should not have a criminal sanction that does not come with an eraser. And last week, in what is a game changer for many, the botched execution in Oklahoma provided one more piece of evidence that we cannot have a society that bars cruel and unusual punishment and at the same time have a death penalty.
The original bill is a minor adjustment to the current burglary statute, adding 3 words to clarify that someone who remains in a building where he or she is not authorized to be can be charged with burglary. The original bill remains. The language of the amendment is simple. It amends RSA 630:1, III of the homicide laws of the criminal code to read: “A person convicted of capital murder shall be sentenced to life imprisonment and shall not be eligible for parole.”
We know that the death penalty is a difficult topic, a matter of conscience for all legislators. As with any subject, as new information comes forward people sometimes change and evolve in their thinking. The majority believes that the death penalty is bad public policy, part of a system that makes mistakes, fails the families of murder victims, does not make society safer, and uses resources that would be better spent meeting the needs of victims and law enforcement. We respectfully urge members of the House to pass SB 202 as amended. New Hampshire can live without the death penalty.
Note: There was no Minority Report offered by the House Criminal Justice Committee