'It's Time to End the Cycle of Violence': Law Enforcement Veterans Speak Out Against Death Penalty
CONCORD (AP) — Some former New Hampshire law enforcement members appealed to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday to respect the Legislature's decision to repeal the death penalty and not veto the bill.
With the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police supporting the death penalty, some retired officers said they felt more comfortable speaking out after leaving the force.
"I think that a lot of officers, knowing the official stance is what it is, don't want to ruffle any feathers because they worry it could affect their career," said Paul Lutz, former lieutenant of the Derry Police Department.
The work partner of an officer gunned down by a man who is now the state's only death-row inmate was among those asking the governor to let the Legislature's decision stand.
Officer John Breckinridge was in an alley with Officer Michael Briggs when his partner was killed in 2006. Breckinridge used to support the death penalty and testified in favor of it before a commission in 2010, the year he left the force.
But four years later, he had a change of heart after a spiritual journey renewed his Roman Catholic faith.
"It's time to end the cycle of violence and vengeance in our society, and end the death penalty once and for all," Breckinridge said in a statement read at a news conference.
New Hampshire's death penalty law covers the murders of police officers, judges, or killings during kidnappings, robberies or rape. This narrowly drawn statute has been a reason why the state hasn't carried out an execution since 1939.
The House and Senate passed a bill last month repealing capital punishment. The bill now goes to Sununu, who has said he would veto it. A two-thirds majority in both chambers is needed to override vetoes; it's not yet clear if there are enough votes.
The repeal bill technically would not apply to Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Officer Briggs, but supporters of capital punishment argue that courts may see it differently.
Some of the former officers argue that there's no evidence to support the theory that the death penalty deters crime, while others stress that capital punishment does not align with their morals and ethics.
"It is my belief that state-authorized killing of one who kills is fundamentally wrong," said Bill McGonagle, former assistant commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.
Democratic Rep. Richard O'Leary, a former deputy police chief in Manchester, said he agrees with Breckinridge that the sentence of life in prison without parole is a sufficiently harsh punishment but also one which "allows for the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption."