Death penalty in NH: two bills, two directions

Legislators came close to repealing New Hampshire’s death penalty statute a couple of years ago. I cheered for that.  Now, two death penalty bills are on the table: one a moratorium, one an expansion.

Senate Bill 463 would suspend imposition of capital punishment “until such time that methods exist to ensure that the death penalty cannot be imposed on an innocent person.” The list of sponsors is impressively varied: Senators Avard, Daniels, Kelly and Lasky, and Reps. Seidel, Cushing and Ferreira. The Senate Judiciary Committee has made an “ought to pass” recommendation on a 3-1 vote, and the full Senate will vote on the bill on March 3.

And then there’s the House bill, or perhaps I should say Rep. Flanagan’s bill, since no one else’s name seems to be on it. It’s HB 1552, and it would  extend the death penalty to acts of terrorism and civil rights offenses. The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee has already held a hearing on the measure and will vote on it March 1.

I’d like to believe that a moratorium or suspension in imposing the death penalty would be a step in the right direction. I hope the Senate passes SB 463. I’m proud that my own district’s Senator Gary Daniels is the one who will formally present the committee’s recommendation on the Senate floor.


2 Comments

  1. Jim Anderson

    Hi Ellen,
    Actually Senate Bill 463 would ban the death penalty because the condition “until such time that methods exist to ensure that the death penalty cannot be imposed on an innocent person.” can never be achieved. I personally believe that the death penalty should remain an option. Recent high profile cases in the US and Mexico have shown that we are not able to guarantee the public that we can confine dangerous criminals.

    I am surprised that you did not take a position on the insane HB 1552 that would extend the death penalty to acts of terrorism and civil rights offenses. I don’t think the death penalty should be applied if someone uses the N word or quotes the bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts (which will be deemed illegal in the not to distant future.

    • Ellen Kolb

      Jim, I quite agree with you on HB 1552. I don’t take the bill too seriously because the chief sponsor apparently did not find a co-sponsor anywhere among 399 colleagues. Solo-sponsor bills labor under a significant handicap. (If any co-sponsor has recently signed on, I stand corrected.)

      On SB 463, you make what I think is the strongest argument in favor of retaining the death penalty: as a last resort when imprisonment proves inadequate to protect the safety of the public. I look forward to listening to the Senate debate online to hear if that comes up.

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