New Hampshire Bill Would Abolish Death Penalty

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - The New Hampshire legislature is taking steps that would make the Granite State the first one since 1977 to abolish the death penalty.

The legislation, recently approved by the state House of Representatives, has also passed the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, on a 5-1 vote. The bill now goes to the full Senate, where supporters are still trying to muster the votes needed for passage.

"I don't think that as a member of the legislature, I would ever be able to make the decision to take someone's life," said Democratic State Senator Katherine Wheeler said. "If we do that, we put ourselves in the role of executioner."

However, New Hampshire's Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen has threatened to veto the measure if it reaches her desk. Although no one's been executed in New Hampshire in more than 30 years, Gov. Shaheen said there are some crimes where an execution is warranted - the murder of a law enforcement officer, for example.

"I certainly understand that this is an issue for most people that is long held and deeply personal...but I do believe there are certain crimes that are so horrible, that the death penalty is appropriate."

It appears state lawmakers do not have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Even so, the case is getting national attention, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center. "It would be quite big news if both houses in a state voted to abolish the death penalty."

The full New Hampshire Senate is expected to take up the bill abolishing the death penalty on or about May 18th.