Notter: Keep the death penalty

Below is the speech Rep. Jeanine Notter, of Merrimack, delivered on the House floor regarding her opposition to repealing the death penalty in New Hampshire.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker,

I rise in opposition to the committee report of Ought to Pass.

When I ran for my first term, one of the issues that I ran on was “justice for victims of heinous crimes.” It is still an issue that I believe in.

That doesn’t mean that I think that every murderer should get the death penalty – only the worst of the worst. The death penalty law in New Hampshire covers limited situations of murder.

Last term, we had a slight expansion with the Kimberly L. Cates Law, that added “home invasion murders” to the list. It was a bill that I was proud to co-sponsor. The new law could not be applied to the thugs who murdered Kim Cates, but if there were to be another crime of a similar nature, the possibility could not be ruled out.

How quickly we seem to have forgotten the Mont Vernon murder.

Maybe we need to be reminded of it before we vote on this bill.

Early on the morning of Oct. 4, 2009, Kim Cates and her daughter, Jamie, were brutally attacked in a home invasion. A group of heartless thugs broke into the Cates home, armed with knives and a machete. They cut the power and made their way down the long hall until they reached the master bedroom.

Kim pleaded with the attackers, saying, “You don’t have to do this.”

She weighed only 90 pounds She punched and kicked with all her might, but she didn’t have a chance against these creatures. You don’t know what they did to her. I read the transcripts, so I do. That is how I know that a lifetime is jail is not justice for a crime such as this.

Sleeping in mommy’s bed is supposed to be the safest, most secure place in the world for a child. That is where Jamie was on the night her mother was murdered. She was only 11 years old.

The extent of Jamie’s injuries was horrendous. I don’t know how to relay the brutality of it all. I’m purposely not describing their injuries to you because it really was that gruesome.

Jamie was grievously injured, and thrown across the room to the far wall. Maimed, bleeding, she could hear her mom struggling to breathe, until the killers silenced her forever. Then they kicked and stabbed the child one more time. They turned the lights back on to view the scene of horror that they created, laughing with pleasure at what they did.

I’ve been to the Cates home. I saw for myself how far that child had to crawl to get to the phone. This is a very long house. Jamie was at the far end of the house.

Near death herself, she must have had help from above to give her the strength to crawl across the master bedroom, past the den, past a bathroom, past her own bedroom, past the living room, and then finally made it to the kitchen.

The cellphone was on the counter. I don’t know how she managed to reach up to get it. She called 911, barely got the words out “they killed my mommy,” and then she passed out.

You might recall that a brave police officer injured his shoulder breaking the door down to get to Jamie. He saved her life.

People all over the country were shocked by this murder. I know of an 11-year-old girl in my town, Merrimack, who was affected by the murder. Elizabeth met Jamie only once, but she remembers the two of them squirting water down on everyone who walked by them at the water park the previous summer.

Elizabeth’s mom, Nancy, came to the Statehouse for the first time ever, to testify at the Senate hearing for the Kim Cates bill.

After the murder, Elizabeth slept in her mother’s room for a whole year, because she was too frightened to sleep in her own room, worried that her family might suffer the same fate. The doctor had to prescribe medication for her.

Jamie Cates has had numerous surgeries since the attack. As I was typing this, I started to write “every March” when the date popped up. I said aloud, “Oh my gosh, It’s March 7th. I think that was Kim’s birthday.” I wrote this speech on March 7th but when I checked I found I was a day off. Her birthday was March 6th. It was on her birthday, in 2010 that we went to the Cates’ home.

I heard Jamie say, “Today is mommy’s birthday.” The sound of her voice saying those words are forever in my mind. She will never see her mother again.

I haven’t even mentioned her dad, Dave Cates, and the heartbreak of losing his wife and best friend.

You have no idea how hard it was for him to come here to testify for the Kim Cates bill. But he did because he too believes that a lifetime in prison is not justice for the most brutal of murders.

The heartless monsters who murdered Kimberly Cates have the opportunity to visit with their family members for as long as they live.

There is no ball and chain around their ankle. There is no strict diet of bread and water. No, a lifetime in prison with everything paid for by the taxpayers. They can earn college degrees, even PhDs.

Please remember the Cates family. And remember that that wasn’t the first home invasion murder in New Hampshire.

Please remember the Dartmouth professors, Half and Suzanne Zantop. They were killed in a home invasion murder in 2001.

And finally, I noticed that some of our honorable colleagues wear a round button with a number on it. The number is 83, which was Officer Michael Briggs’ badge number. He was shot to death in the line of duty in 2006, leaving his wife a widow and his two young children fatherless.

This issue is the repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire.

Since the year 1734, 24 people have been executed in New Hampshire. No one has been executed in New Hampshire since 1939.

So you see, the death penalty is not overused. There is currently one person on death row in New Hampshire, and the repeal of this law will not affect the murderer who took Officer Briggs’ life.

But should there be another evil, heinous murder in this state, with no death penalty, what is there to take off the table to get the murderers to cooperate, if such an action is needed?

The death penalty is only for the worst of the worst, justice for victims of heinous crimes.

Repealing this law prevents it.

I ask you to join me in pushing the red button to overturn the committee report of OTP.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Rep. Jeanine Notter represents Merrimack in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.