NH Committee approves death penalty expansion

Posted May 28, 2011, at 6:23 a.m.
Last modified May 28, 2011, at 8:09 a.m.

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-1 Wednesday to recommend the state’s death penalty be expanded to include home invasions.

Last week the bill’s prime sponsor, House Speaker Bill O’Brien, proposed changes to address legal concerns raised by the state Attorney General’s Office and others.

The Judiciary Committee yesterday adopted O’Brien’s proposed changes to House Bill 147. The amendment would link the capital murder expansion to murder committed during a burglary or attempted burglary in an occupied structure.

Attorneys have said the bill that passed the House was overly broad and would have unintended consequences.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzen told the committee last week the amendment would do what O’Brien intended and would make New Hampshire’s law similar to other states’ that include home invasions under capital murder. Strelzin also said the change would better withstand a legal challenge to the expansion.

In Wednesday’s executive session, committee Chairman Matthew Houde, D-Meriden, said he could not support the expansion. He said some of the most compelling testimony he heard at the public hearing last week was from family members of victims who said the death penalty does nothing to help their situation.

But committee member Sen. Jim Luther, R-Hollis, said although the committee heard that the place of the murder is irrelevant, he disagrees.

He noted the bill, named for Kimberly Cates, who was brutally murdered in a 2009 home invasion in Mont Vernon by teenagers, addresses murder committed in a very sensitive location, a person’s home, and that warrants expansion of the death penalty.

The Senate will vote on the bill next week.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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