MANCHESTER — More than seven years after a Manchester bicycle patrol officer was gunned down in the line of duty, the state Supreme Court today will rule on his convicted killer’s appeal of the first modern-era death penalty case in New Hampshire history.
In its more than 100-page decision to be released at 1 p.m., the court will decide on 22 issues raised by defense attorneys for Michael K. Addison, 33, including several challenges to the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty law.
The ruling comes nearly a year after the court heard oral arguments on the case. Officer Michael L. Briggs, 35, was fatally shot in the head Oct. 16, 2006. He died the next day.
A Hillsborough County Superior Court North jury convicted Addison — a former Boston street gang member and the state’s sole death row inmate — of capital murder, found him eligible for the death penalty, and recommended he be sentenced to death during a two-month trial that ended Dec. 22, 2008.
The court has a wide range of options available in ruling on this portion of the mandatory appeal.
It could affirm Addison’s capital murder conviction and death sentence.
It could find the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional and unenforceable, in which case Addison’s sentence would be converted to life in prison without possibility of parole.
It could find reversible errors and order an entirely new trial or order a new trial on any of the three phases.
State law requires the state Supreme Court to conduct an automatic review of any capital murder conviction in which the death penalty is imposed.
Addison is the first person to be sentenced to death since 1959 and the first to receive a death sentence under the state’s capital murder law, which went into effect in 1991.
Issues the defense raised on appeal include the trial court’s refusal to move the trial to another venue, instructions given the jury prior to deliberations, evidence presented of Addison’s past crimes, and the state’s refusal to accept a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty.
As part of its automatic review of the case, the court must determine if the death penalty was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or other arbitrary factors and if the evidence supports the jury’s finding of aggravating circumstances.
The court also must decide if the death sentence is excessive or disproportionate to penalties imposed in cases involving similar crimes and similar defendants. This phase of the mandatory review — known as proportionality review — will only go forward if the court affirms Addison’s conviction and death sentence.