New Hampshire Abolishes Death Penalty With Veto Override

New Hampshire Senator David Watters pauses Thursday after the tally was announced in a vote on the death penalty at the State House in Concord. The death penalty was repealed in New Hampshire immediately after the state Senate cast enough votes to override Governor Chris Sununu’s veto. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

CONCORD, N.H. (CN) – Just barely reaching the two-thirds vote to override their governor’s veto, lawmakers made New Hampshire the 21st state on Thursday to abolish the death penalty. 

The 16-8 vote by the New Hampshire Senate came today nearly a month after Republican Governor Chris Sununu attempted to block the body’s last vote.

In the April vote, the Senate passed the death-penalty ban 17-6. Republican Senator David Starr switched his vote today in support of Sununu, but four other Republican senators joined the majority of Democrats in voting to override.

During the Senate’s livestream broadcast of the vote, Republican Senator Bob Giuda said he arrived at his position through faith.

“Although I am pro-life, I believe all life is sacred,” he said. “Anyone who has watched an execution by lethal injection, many of which go awry, knows that it is a ghastly sight.” 

Governor Sununu denounced the veto override Thursday.

“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,” Sununu said in a statement. “I am incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to override my veto.”

Just last year, a similar effort to abolish the death penalty failed in the state Senate with a 14-10 vote to override Sununu’s veto. Supporters of the ban welcomed today’s 

Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, celebrated today’s vote meanwhile as a hard-fought victory.

“For years, the ACLU of New Hampshire has been involved in the effort to abolish capital punishment, and so we recognize this transformative day as one built on years of advocacy and grassroots mobilization,” Chaffee said in a statement. “We celebrate with those who returned to the state house year after year to reach this day.”

The last time that New Hampshire executed a criminal was 1939, when Howard Long was punished for the murder a 10-year-old boy. Michael Addison today is the only person awaiting the death penalty in New Hampshire, sentenced to death for the 2008 murder of Manchester police officer.

Next year will mark a full decade since the New Hampshire Death Penalty Study Commission released its final report that recommended the state keep the death penalty.

A bipartisan coalition of six Democrats and six Republicans sponsored this year’s measure to ban the death penalty, which passed the Democrat-controlled House easily in March with a vote of 279-88. After Sununu’s veto, the state House voted 247-123 last week to override.

The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty celebrated today’s vote.

“We are deeply grateful to the bipartisan group of senators who stood firm and again cast their vote to end capital punishment in our state. Like the majority of their House colleagues, they agreed that capital punishment is inhumane, unfair, error prone, and costly,” coalition chair Barbara Keshen said.

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