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New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Announces 2014 Legislative Push

#abolish death penalty

CONCORD, OCTOBER 24, 2103 – Legislators, faith leaders, relatives of homicide victims, and citizens who spent their careers in law enforcement kicked off a campaign today to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty with arguments that capital punishment does not help public safety or offer solace but instead wastes public resources and conflicts with fundamental values.

At the news conference, supporters of the legislative effort included: The Right Reverend A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire; The Most Reverend Peter Anthony Libasci, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester; Rep. Robert “Renny” Cushing of Hampton, whose father was murdered in 1988; retired Chief Justice of the NH Superior Court Walter L. Murphy; and Ray Dodge, who served as Marlborough’s police chief.

The Death Penalty is a Failed Policy

According to Barbara Keshen, Board Chair for the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, “The death penalty is a failed policy that does nothing to make our communities safer.  It is divisive, distracts from real needs of victims, and elevates the story of the killer.” 

·      In a 2009 poll of 500 of the nation's police chiefs, the death penalty was ranked last in their priorities for effective crime reduction. 69% said that murderers do not consider the range of consequences before committing a murder.

·      The National Research Council also cites murderers’ views of the risk of the death penalty as one of the major flaws in deterrence research.  The NRC does not believe that deterrence research to date is informative about the impact of the death penalty on homicide rates, and therefore the research should not be used in deliberations about the death penalty. (NRC Law and Justice Report Brief, April 2012) 

“Basically, there is no assurance that the Death Penalty does what its advocates claim is its purpose; nor is there any reason to believe it is necessary for public safety,” said Judge Murphy.  “The alternative, that is, Life Without the Possibility of Parole, offers the same protection without the attendant risks of mistakes and without the vast expense both monetary and otherwise.  Nor is there any rational justification for the view expressed by some that the abolition of the death Penalty insults the memory of murder victims or demonstrates a lack of respect or support for law enforcement, the judiciary, or the judicial process.”

“My experience indicates that people committing crimes either do not consider the consequences, believe the consequences will not apply to them, or do not believe they will be caught,” Ray Dodge commented.                                     

Keshen noted that more than 140 innocent men and women placed on death row nationwide have been exonerated since 1973. These exonerations have revealed cases riddled with problems, including mistaken eyewitness identifications, incompetent lawyers, shoddy forensics, unreliable jailhouse snitches, and coerced confessions. “New Hampshire is not immune to these problems,” she added.  “Sending those who commit the most heinous crimes to prison for the rest of their lives ensures public safety and also eliminates the risk of killing an innocent human being.”

The Death Penalty is Not Cost-effective

The Death Penalty is not cost-effective. It costs 3 to 5 times as much to sentence a person to death as to imprison them with life without parole.

“Death penalty cases delay justice and devour millions of dollars that could be instead used to fight crime, provide services to victims, and protect the public.  For the cost of prosecuting a single death penalty case in New Hampshire, we could buy every police officer in the state a Kevlar vest,” Keshen added.

According to the Coalition, the state has already spent about $5 Million on the case of Michael Addison, and the NH Supreme Court has not even announced its decision in the first appeal. 

The Death Penalty Does Not Reflect Our Values

“Many people believe as a matter of faith or ethics that killing another person for any reason is neither moral nor humane, and the government should not be trusted with such life-and-death powers. Evidence shows that the around the country the death penalty falls disproportionately on poor people and people of color,” said Keshen.                                          

Roman Catholic Bishop Peter A. Libasci (Manchester NH Diocese) said, “I urge all Catholics and people of good will, enlightened by faith in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness, to respond with justice worthy of our best nature to those who have caused terrible harm. God, Eternal and Almighty, has breathed life and spirit into each and every one of us, and the dignity of the human person, from conception to natural death, must never be taken away. Please join me in advocating for a repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire.”

Episcopal Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld (Diocese of New Hampshire) said, “Repealing the Death Penalty in New Hampshire is a way of saying, with our Savior, ‘No more of this!’ (Luke 22:51) to the violence in this world.  It’s a way of saying that we desire to be ruled, not by the instincts of our baser nature, even if governed by law.  In our witness against the death penalty, we seek instead to be guided and healed by a divine love that is stronger, and ultimately more effective in bringing justice and peace, than the violence that infects our hearts and our society. “    

For more information, visit www.nodeathpenaltynh.org or email Info@nodeathpenaltynh.org.