It’ s time to end the death penalty in New Hampshire

Did you know that New Hampshire has spent more than five million dollars on the only man to serve on death row since 1939? Or that there are more than 100 cold cases in our state? Or that many murder victims’ families do not support the death penalty?

Thurgood Marshall said: “The American public would reject the death penalty if they were more informed about it.”

On Monday, Feb. 11, a panel discussion on ending the death penalty in New Hampshire was held at the Brookline Community Church to inform area residents of the reasons to end the death penalty. Among the panelists was Representative Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, prime sponsor of HB 1170, a bill to end the death penalty in New Hampshire and institute life in prison without parole. Representative Cushing has the unique perspective of being the family member of a murder victim. His father was killed in front of his mother 13 years ago.

Margaret Hawthorne spoke of her daughter, Molly, who was murdered in 2010. She said she would not dishonor her daughter’s life by taking another life. Margaret’s story of compassion for her daughter’s killer stemmed from her Quaker background and belief that she did not want hatred to consume her and her family.

Representative John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, spoke very succinctly of his reason for supporting the bill. “I believe in life,” he said.

Pastor Renee Rousse, interim pastor at the Brookline Community Church, talked about the Old and New Testament interpretations of the Bible. In the Old Testament, God was a fearful God. In the New Testament, he is a forgiving God.

Richard O’Leary, former Manchester Police Department detective, explained that desperate people do desperate things and said the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. He also spoke of John Breckenridge, the partner of Officer Michael Briggs, who has become an advocate for the repeal of the death penalty.

As a co-sponsor, I discussed the fact that many innocent people have been on death row. Some were exonerated and released, while many others were exonerated after their execution. In addition, justice is not always administered fairly. African-
Americans, other minorities and the poor are impacted disproportionately. As one of my fellow representatives said, “Justice is a rich man’s game.” We see this played out in New Hampshire. There are two men who have killed police officers. The sentence for the man of means is life in prison but the poor black man gets the death penalty. This was also the observation of the Criminal Justice Committee as it recommended repeal, 14-3.

There are many reasons to end the death penalty in New Hampshire. The House will vote on this bill in the next few weeks. We hope it will bring us one step closer to reversing the death penalty in New Hampshire.

Please feel free to write me regarding your thoughts on legislation before the House.


Brookline and Mason