[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N. H.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 5 06:52:11 UTC 2007
N.H. death penalty is not to be taken lightly ... or abolished
Invoking the death penalty is a serious matter. It is not something to be
done quickly or offhandedly. It must be done in only the most extreme
It must be sought when the crime unquestionably justifies the punishment
and only on rare occasions.
In New Hampshire, this has been the history of the death penalty which was
last carried out in 1939 and only 24 times since 1734.
Despite the infrequency of its use, a group of legislators, led by
Portsmouth Rep. Jim Splaine, wants to abolish the state's death penalty
This is not the first time Splaine and others have mounted the effort, and
it probably won't be the last should their current effort fail. This,
however, should not diminish the need to have a fair and open debate over
what Splaine labels as a difficult issue, especially in light of the
recent murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.
On the other hand, that does not mean Splaine and others like Reps. Jim
Pilliod of Belmont and Tony DiFruscia of Windham are correct in their
quest to strike the death penalty from New Hampshire's lawbooks for a
multitude of reasons.
Splaine argues that life in prison without any chance of parole is, in
effect, a death sentence. In recent comments to the press, Splaine
described the horror of the convict who wakes up behind prison bars,
knowing that every day would be the same with freedom never in sight.
What Splaine fails to note is that prisons develop their own cultures,
their own societies, in which many of the vices and illicit comforts of
the outside world are well represented behind prison walls. There,
cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex become prison life's legal tender. And
prisoners, especially lifers, adapt to their new world.
To the average law-abiding citizen, this would be death. To hardened
criminals, it is not.
Opponents argue that using the death penalty promotes the cycle of
violence and sends the wrong message. That may be arguably true if this
were Texas, with its more than frequent use of the death penalty. Instead,
New Hampshire has promoted the rule of law, not societal violence, due to
its infrequent use of the death penalty.
But the reality, at least in New Hampshire, is that the death penalty may
never be used again or needed.
Prosecutors from New Hampshire Attorneys General on down have argued that
having a death penalty on the books gives them leverage in cases where the
death penalty could be sought. Eliminating the statute runs the risk of
putting killers back on the street, like those who murdered Dartmouth
professors Half and Susanne Zantop, or Epsom Police Officer Jeremy
And what of the killer of Officer Michael Briggs, also a husband and
father, whose life was taken last year?
Opponents of the death penalty also argue that it is not something done by
civilized societies. Does that mean New Hampshire should legalize
prostitution and drugs, as has been done in some of these "civilized
Should the sacred rights of freedom of speech and the press be curtailed
as is the practice in many European nations?
The other frequent arguments against the death penalty have proven, over
time, equally less persuasive.
Advances in DNA science and the narrowing by the U.S. Supreme Court of who
can be executed and under what circumstances have limited the scope of
death penalty laws.
It is also worth noting that in the final analysis, the death penalty is
really nothing more than a choice, not one made by society, but by those
The death penalty is a line drawn in the sand by society to protect itself
from the most heinous of criminals. Those who step over that line, in the
most grievous of cases, must be prevented from ever doing so again. In
these cases, life in prison is not the answer, for it leaves these
criminals within reach of those officials and courts who might invoke the
power of pardon or parole.
(source: Foster's Online)
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