Effort to abolish New Hampshire death penalty loses by single vote in Senate

New Hampshire, with only one man on death row, remains New England holdout on abolishing executions.
By Frances Burns  |  April 17, 2014 at 3:49 PM
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CONCORD, N.H., April 17 (UPI) -- The New Hampshire Senate rejected an effort Thursday to join other New England states in abolishing the death penalty, splitting 12-12 on the issue.

While the vote was largely along party lines, two Republicans voted with most Democrats in support of abolition. One Democrat voted with Republicans to table the bill.

The House passed the bill 225-104, and it had the backing of Gov. Maggie Hassan. But the measure had a tougher time in the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee sent it to a floor vote last week after voting 2-2.

State Rep. Renny Cushman, a Democrat who represents Hampton in the Seacoast region, sponsored the bill in the House. Cushman, whose father was shot and killed in 1988, said he expects abolition in the near future.

“You can see there is real momentum,” Cushing said. “Our job is to change one mind at a time.”

New Hampshire's last execution was in 1939 although the death penalty remained on the books. Two men given death sentences for killing a potential witness in a Rhode Island burglary case in 1959 were spared when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that all existing death penalty laws were flawed.

Maine became the first New England state to abolish the death penalty in 1887. Connecticut is the most recent, approving abolition in 2012 while allowing the penalty to stand for those already on death row.

Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have also abolished the penalty.

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