NH bill would expand the death penalty

By Roni Reino, Foster's Daily Democrat (MCT)
Posted Jan. 04, 2012, at 10:37 a.m.

DOVER, N.H. — A bill intended to expand the death penalty is expected to land on the House floor Wednesday.

Rep. Phil Greazzo, Manchester, sponsor of House Bill 162, said he doesn’t feel there should be any special circumstances in murder cases. The bill would expand the current death penalty capital murder charge to anyone who purposely causes the death of another.

Under current New Hampshire law, a person is guilty of capital murder if he or she knowingly causes the death of a law enforcement officer or judicial officer acting in the line of duty. They can also be found guilty of committing a murder while engaging or attempting to commit a kidnapping, for hiring another individual to commit murder, killing someone while already facing a life sentence without parole, or while attempting to commit aggravated felonious sexual assault.

The law states that no one under the age of 18 at the time of the offense can be culpable for a capital murder charge.

Michael Addison, sentenced in December 2008 for causing the death of Manchester police officer Michael L. Briggs, is the only person on death row in New Hampshire.

“Why should there be special circumstances?” Greazzo asked. “Why should they not face a death penalty?”

He said it should not matter if the person killed is a police officer or an average person.

“It doesn’t seem right if someone killed my daughter,” he said. “I would want them to face the death penalty. I wouldn’t want the state to choose who is special and who is not.”

Despite the additional costs it would incur to the public via taxes, Greazzo said the real focus should be on equal justice for everyone. The bill will increase the offense level of purposely causing a death from first-degree murder to capital murder. By doing so, it would increase the court costs.

According to the bill, an average complex felony case costs $753.36 in fiscal year 2012 and $759.71 in fiscal year 2013. That cost includes clerical fees and wages to have a judge oversee the case for three hours. Many cases are in the courts for much longer than three hours, according to officials. It does not include attorney fees or other costs, such as any prisoner transportation.

The cost is also expected to rise each year. But due to the addition of a penalty phase to a trial, the need to increase security, potential multiple appeals and more hearings, a capital murder case cost is unable to be determined.

These are considered the most costly cases in the criminal justice system.

“The (Judicial) Council states the cost to defend a capital murder case can easily exceed $1 million,” according to the bill.

The Department of Corrections states the average annual cost to incarcerating an individual in the general prison population for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 was $32,492, not including an additional $659 for supervision.

Greazzo plans to propose an amendment in July to repeal the death penalty all together if the bill does not pass.

“If you take someone else’s life, you don’t deserve your own,” he said.

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© 2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat

Distributed by MCT Information Services

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/04/politics/nh-bill-would-expand-the-death-penalty/ printed on December 18, 2014