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CONCORD, NH –​Today’s 16-8 Senate vote provided the two-thirds majority necessary to overturn Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of HB 455.

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Following last week’s 247-123 successful override vote in the NH House, today’s Senate action served to officially override the gubernatorial veto and end the practice of state-sanctioned executions in New Hampshire. New Hampshire now becomes the 21st state to end capital punishment, joining all other New England states, .

HB 455 replaces death sentences in future capital cases with the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The bill does not change the sentence for Michael Addison, the sole individual currently on death row in New Hampshire.

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Speaking in favor of the override were Republican Senators Harold French and Bob Giuda, and Democrat Senator Melanie Levesque.

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Representative Renny Cushing, who has been spearheading death penalty repeal efforts in the NH House since 1997, reflected after today’s vote, “Today, I’m proud that the New Hampshire Legislature fulfilled the legacy of Governor William Badger, who in 1834 initiated the first movement to end capital punishment in our state. I’d like to  acknowledge all of my Republican and Democratic colleagues who worked hard to see this day come to pass.” Representative Cushing, who lost a father and brother-in-law to murder, is the founder of Murder Victim Families for Human Rights.

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From the first recorded execution in 1739 to the last one in 1939, 22 individuals have been hanged by the state of New Hampshire. At least one, Ruth Blay, is now recognized as having been the victim of a wrongful execution in 1768 after being convicted of concealing the body of her stillborn illegitimate child and refusing to reveal the identity of the father.

“We hope that what we have accomplished here in New Hampshire will add momentum to efforts across our country to end capital punishment,” said Barbara Keshen, NHCADP Chair, adding, “We look forward to the United States joining the ever-growing community of nations who have abolished the death penalty and are working to create a less violent world.”

Keshen said that members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty would be lighting torches in the Coliseum in Rome, Italy sometime this summer in celebration of New Hampshire’s  achievement.

NH House Overrides Veto

1442 Mens 13 Harness Biker BootOn May 23, the NH House of Representatives voted to override Gov. Sununu’s veto of HB 455 by a vote of 247 to 123. Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff cast his vote with the majority, cementing by a single vote the two-thirds majority necessary to overturn the governor’s action.

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Following the successful vote, the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said it is gearing up for one more override vote in the Senate, which could take place as early as Thursday, May 30.

HB 455 aims to replace death sentences in future capital cases with the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The bill does not change the sentence for Michael Addison, the sole individual currently on death row in New Hampshire.

Speaking in favor of the override were Republican Representatives: Dave Danielson, who spoke about evolving his pro-life beliefs (video here); David Welch, who spoke about not wanting to create more grieving families (video here); and Max Abramson, who spoke about the exonerations of innocent people from death row (video here).

Also speaking in favor were Democrat Representatives: Susan Ticehurst, who related the story of an ancestor who was hung as a witch in Salem (video here); and Renny Cushing, who offered reflections on the leadership of Nelson Mandela and the author of the song, Amazing Grace. (Catch Rep. Cushing’s full remarks in the video below.)

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[Watch the full streaming video of the override debate here – click on the “play” icon first then move the slider to the 10:18:33 mark for the beginning of deliberations on HB 455.]

Rep. Renny Cushing

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Barbara Keshen, Chair of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NHCADP) and a former NH Assistant Attorney General, commented, “We are deeply gratified that a majority of our elected representatives stuck to their convictions despite monumental political pressure to do otherwise. New Hampshire never has been in love with the death penalty and today, House members ratified what has been all but a policy for past 80 years.”

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“We remain optimistic that the Senate will follow suit and make New Hampshire the 21st state to abolish capital punishment,” said Representative Cushing, who has campaigned for repeal since 1998.

District 8 Senator Ruth Ward, a Republican from Stoddard, wrote in a recent letter to the editor, “My father was killed when I was a young child, and taking the perpetrator’s life would not have brought my father back. I will vote to override the governor’s veto.”

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Watch a 30-second clip of the roll call of the override vote here:

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Press coverage of the override vote:

 


Post-House Override Actions

The Coalition is asking all of its members to write or call their House Reps who voted for the override, especially those Republicans who stood firm against intense pressure from the governor and the party to change their vote. Please find the roll call here.

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The pro-repeal House Republicans who held firm from the March House vote to the Override vote include:

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Dennis Acton
Glen Aldrich
Alan Bershtein
John Burt
Ed Comeau
Barbara Comtois
Michael Costable
Kevin Craig
David Danielson
Dan Davis
John Fothergill
Edward Gordon
Gary Hopper
Tony Lekas
JP Marzullo
Charles McMahon
Vincent Paul Migliore
Hershel Nunez
John O’Day
Andrew Prout
Michael Sylvia
Mark Warden
David Welch
Dan Wolf

One Republican was excused in March, but voted yea in May: Kevin Verville

We invite everyone to a another public vigil at the State House next Thursday, May 30 starting at 9 AM. The Senate session will begin at 10 AM, and we expect the override to be taken up early in the session.1460 WANDERLUST Size 4 Dr Marten TAUPE FINE CANVAS

 

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On April 11, the NH Senate voted 17-6 in favor of HB 455 (see roll call below), a bill to repeal the death penalty. This is enough to override an expected veto by Governor Sununu.

Last month, the NH House voted 279-88 in favor of the bill, which also represents a veto-proof majority.

Speaking in favor of the bill were Senators Martha Hennessey (D), Harold French (R), Melanie Levesque (D), and Ruth Ward (R). Speaking against was Senator Sharon Carson.