A bill repealing the death penalty that passed the state House of Representatives 225-104 was released Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 2-2 vote. The full Senate is expected to act on the measure next week in what is likely to be a close vote.
Gov. Maggie Hassan supports abolition and is expected to sign the bill if it gets to her desk. In 2000, then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, like Hassan a Democrat, vetoed an abolition bill.
New Hampshire reinstated the death penalty in 1991, after the U.S. Supreme Court found it to be constitutional while overturning most state capital punishment laws in the 1970s. But the state has not executed anyone since 1939 and has not set up an execution chamber for lethal injections.
The only inmate under sentence of death is Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
During Tuesday's committee hearing, most of the speakers were pro-repeal. But Sen. Sharron Carson, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, said she feared Addison's execution would be impossible if the bill becomes law, even though, as written, it would not commute any death sentences.
New Hampshire would be the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, along with the District of Columbia.
Legislatures in five states have repealed death penalty statutes adopted after the Supreme Court rulings, beginning with New Jersey in 2007. New Mexico, Maryland and Connecticut still have inmates under death sentence after abolition.
New Hampshire is the only New England state where the death penalty remains legal. Neighboring Maine abolished the penalty in 1887 and Vermont in 1964, while Massachusetts and Rhode Island had statutes on the books until 1984, when they were overturned by the courts.
[New Hampshire Union Leader]