New Hampshire Abolishes Death Penalty

New Hampshire state house
New Hampshire state house / Wikimedia Commons
May 30, 2019

New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty following the state Senate's Thursday override of a gubernatorial veto.

The state Senate voted 16 to 8 Thursday morning to override Gov. Chris Sununu's (R.) veto of its past death penalty repeal bill, clearing the two-thirds majority threshold, local news station WGME reported.

The Senate vote followed a House vote a week ago, also overriding Sununu's veto. Although both votes were driven by Democrats' super-majority in the state legislature, they were helped along by anti-death penalty Republicans.

Sununu's veto, in April, even then seemed likely to be purely symbolic. He had previously vetoed a different repeal bill the prior year, but that was before Democrats swept into power in the 2018 elections.

In a sense, death penalty repeal is also symbolic: New Hampshire has not executed a single person since 1939. Just one individual—Michael Addison, convicted for the 2006 shooting murder of officer Michael Briggs—remains on its death row. (The law does not apply retroactively to Addison, although capital punishment supporters say it might be interpreted as such by the courts.)

With this vote, New Hampshire becomes the 21st state to abolish the death penalty, and the last state in New England to do so. It also becomes the first state this year to successfully abolish, despite a wave of attempts to pass abolition bills in state legislatures.

Still, abolitionists can add New Hampshire to a growing list of recent political achievements. Last October, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the state's death penalty violated its constitution. And in March of this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) implemented a statewide moratorium, directly contradicting the expressed will of voters in 2016.