On Thursday morning, the New Hampshire Senate voted to override Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill to repeal the death penalty.
New Hampshire has not carried out an execution since 1939, according to ABC News.
The Senate vote crossed beyond party lines to achieve the exact two-thirds majority needed. The final tally was 16-8. Twelve Democrats and four Republicans reportedly supported the bill, while two Democrats and six Republicans opposed the bill.
Last week, the 400-member New Hampshire House had a slim two-thirds majority needed to override the veto by 247-123.
According to ABC News, capital punishment in New Hampshire only applies in specific scenarios: “The killing of an on-duty law enforcement officer or judge, murder for hire, murder during a rape, certain drug offenses, or home invasion and murder by someone already serving a life sentence without parole.”
In a statement, Sununu said he was disappointed. “I have consistently stood with law enforcement, families of crime victims, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty because it is the right thing to do,” he said. “I am incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to override my veto.”
The only inmate on death row in New Hampshire, Michael Addison, killed Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. The new law does not apply to him retroactively. Some legal experts and supporters of the death penalty, including State Sen. Sharon Carson, believe that the repeal will be interpreted differently by the courts to prevent the execution of Addison.
“If you think you’re passing this today and Mr. Addison is still going to remain on death row, you are confused,” Carson said, according to ABC news. “Mr. Addison’s sentence will be converted to life in prison.”
Carson also added that New Hampshire takes special care to ensure inmates on death row are not innocent.
“This is not Louisiana of the 1920s, where Old Sparky was put on a flatbed truck and driven from prison to prison and people were executed. We are not those people,” she said. “That doesn’t happen here in New Hampshire.”
The widow of Officer Briggs, Laura Briggs, testified in favor of the death penalty in March claiming that “it’s not about an eye for an eye, or revenge,” but “it’s about protecting our society from evil people that do evil things.”
In a statement, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty applauded the repeal.
“Ending New Hampshire’s death penalty would not have been possible without significant Republican support,” the organization’s director, Hannah Cox, said. “Increasing numbers of GOP state lawmakers believe capital punishment does not align with their conservative values of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and valuing life. The state of New Hampshire will be much better off because of it.”
Sen. Ruth Ward spoke in favor of the bill in April, despite her father being murdered when she was a child.
“I am a victim. My father was killed before I was eight,” she said. “I never saw him. He never saw us grow up. My mother forgave whoever it was, and I will vote in favor of this bill.”
The ACLU praised the repeal on Twitter asserting: “New England is now the first full region to reject this racist, error-prone, expensive punishment.”
Maine outlawed the death penalty in 1887, Vermont in 1972, both Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1984, and most recently Connecticut in 2012.
The repeal makes New Hampshire the 21st state to outlaw the death penalty.
In recent years, there were numerous efforts to outlaw the death penalty, including 2000 and 2018, where the state legislature passed bills which were vetoed by governors, reported The Boston Globe.