On April 2, the NH Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 in favor of HB 455, a bill to repeal the death penalty. The committee now passes along its OTP or “ought to pass” recommendation to the full Senate, which is expected to take up the bill later this month.
The committee deliberations were brief, with only Senators Melanie Levesque and Harold French speaking, both in favor of the bill.
“If you continue to have appeals,” said Senator Levesque, referring to the years of capital punishment post-conviction motions, “then it brings that loved one through the whole thing over and over again.”
Senator French spoke of his previous support for repeal, saying “this year, having listened to the testimony, my feelings are stronger than last time.” French said that while there may be a handful of good reasons to keep the death penalty, the reasons for abolishing it were “overwhelming.”
Voting in favor of the OTP motion were Senator Martha Hennessey, Senator Melanie Levesque, Senator Shannon Chandley, and Senator Harold French. Voting against was Senator Sharon Carson.
“The senators clearly heard the compelling testimony on the death penalty last week,” said Arnie Alpert, Co-Director of AFSC-NH and board member of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, after the executive session today. “We’re optimistic about the prospect of the bill passing when it comes to the full Senate.” Alpert, who has been involved in abolition efforts since 1985, testified before the committee last week as a murder victim family member.
Gov. Sununu has continued to indicate his opposition to the bill, saying he will veto it as he did with last year’s repeal bill, SB 593. If that happens, the Coalition will prepare for an override vote.