Michael Briggs probably saved New Hampshire’s death penalty on Thursday.
The political momentum for a repeal of the death penalty was real. The House passed a repeal bill 225-104 in March, and Gov. Maggie Hassan had said she would sign it. With two Senate Republicans (Bob Odell and Sam Cataldo) favoring repeal, Senate passage looked promising. But there was the question of what to do with Michael Addison, the state’s lone death row inmate.
Would Addison, sentenced to death for murdering on-duty Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006, have his sentence commuted if New Hampshire banned the death penalty? A ban now would not apply to Addison, but would a court commute his sentence at some point? Could he argue that death is “cruel and unusual punishment” in a state that no longer has a death penalty?
Questions of Addison’s fate and justice for Officer Briggs clouded the last few weeks of death penalty debate in the Senate. On Thursday, the vote came: 12-12. The repeal did not pass. The possibility that it might have denied justice for Officer Briggs was too much.