New Hampshire House Repeals Death Penalty
This just in, the New Hampshire House of Representatives has just voted to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire. The legislation now goes to the NH Senate. Gov. John Lynch (D) has promised to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk! NH citizens who disagree with this promise and want the death penalty repealed can send Gov. Lynch a message here.
This has happened in New Hampshire before. In the 1990s, NH voted to repeal the death penalty and then-Gov. (now Sen.) Jeane Shaheen (D-NH) vetoed it. Clearly NH people and legislators are not in agreement with their governors, even when the latter are Democrats! But the ’90s was a time when public support for capital punishment (and the number of executions) was reaching all time highs. Since 2000, the number of executions has plummeted nationwide (though still remaining high in Texas, Virginia, and Florida) and public support for capital punishment has also decreased–though not as fast or thoroughly as abolitionists like myself would want.
NH has not actually executed anyone for the last 50 years. In fact, of the 35 U.S. states who have the death penalty on the books, the only two which have carried out ZERO executions since 1976 (the year that the Supreme Court said, in Gregg v. Georgia , that the death penalty could be Constitutional if carried out in a way that was neither arbitrary nor discriminatory) are New Hampshire and Kansas. (KS has just buried in committee for another year a bill that would repeal its death penalty.)
Will NH follow New Mexico and New Jersey and become the 3rd U.S. state to repeal the death penalty since 1976? Or will that belong to one of the other states considering such repeal this year like Colorado? Will 2009 be a “tipping point year” for the movement to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.? Stay tuned. (And, as promised, in April I will write a series of blog posts making the case for abolishing the death penalty–and invite debate from the other side.)
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