Friday, December 19, 2008

We're Not Better Off

Yesterday, a New Hampshire jury issued the state's first death sentence in 49 years.

Coverage of the sentence has included some response from Renny Cushing and MVFHR, as in the Union Leader's story, "Addison case highlights deep divide on the death penalty":

Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and a state representative from Hampton, said his heart goes out to the Briggs family.

"Going through any type of homicide trial takes a tremendous toll on you," said Cushing, whose father was murdered by a Hampton police officer and his wife.

But Addison's sentence means public employees will be conducting ritual killings of human beings, he said.

"That is not the New Hampshire tradition of respecting human rights and human dignity," Cushing said. "What we have seen in the past couple of months in New Hampshire is the death penalty in black and white: a jury's reluctance to give the death penalty to a white millionaire, but a willingness to put to death a black kid from Boston. That's unfortunate." ...

And in this Seacoast online story:

Gov. John Lynch said Thursday he will veto any attempt to repeal or scale back New Hampshire's capital murder statute — potentially setting up a showdown with a Legislature that voted to repeal the law eight years ago.

"I think a just verdict has been rendered," Lynch said after a jury issued a death sentence to Michael Addison for murdering Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs two years ago.

Lynch said murdering a police officer "really strikes at the heart and fabric of our society" and the death penalty is appropriate "for such a heinous crime."

Death penalty foes have not decided whether to proceed with legislation to repeal or limit the death penalty law next year, said state Reps. Renny Cushing and Jim Splaine, both longtime opponents.

"I think some of us have been waiting to see the outcome of this trial," said Cushing, D-Hampton.

Cushing understands the emotional case for the death penalty. His father was shotgunned to death in the doorway of his Hampton home in 1988 by a neighbor who also was a town police officer. But rather than fight for capital punishment, Cushing stresses the need for mercy.

"Ultimately, I think the world has come to recognize the death penalty is a human rights violation," he said. "As a society, we're not better off when we have public employees conducting ritual killings of people."

Cushing is the founder of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, which represents victims across the country who oppose capital punishment. Cushing and Splaine said opponents will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to proceed with a bill. Splaine, Cushing and Rep. Steven Lindsey, D-Keene, have initiated repeal bills, but don't have to decide whether to go forward until next month. Cushing said opponents will get together soon to decide what to do. ...

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