Loss of vote likely dooms N.H. death penalty repeal try


CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire's House has twice passed legislation to repeal the death penalty with the governor's blessing, but the second attempt has cost them a key supporter in the Senate and may bring the repeal effort to an end for this year.

Sen. Bob Odell, who had voted for repeal, said Friday that he won't vote to take up the issue again.

"My feeling is we've had the vote on the death penalty," said Odell, R-New London.

The first bill stalled in the Senate on a 12-12 vote last month, but supporters may have overplayed their hand by sending a second bill to the Senate for a vote Thursday. The Senate has the option of passing the amended bill, killing it or asking the House to negotiate a compromise.

A tie vote would leave the bill in limbo until the session ends June 5, when it would likely die. With Odell switching sides, the bill probably will die Thursday.

Repeal supporters argue the Senate should reconsider repealing the death penalty since its first vote was taken before the death of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. The condemned man's vein collapsed after a lethal injection, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. He died a short time later of a heart attack.

Odell had supported the death penalty but voted for its repeal last month and is considered a key vote. At the time, he said he would have a difficult time explaining an execution to his grandchildren.

In April, he voted against an amendment proposed by Senate repeal supporters to specify that some murders committed before July 1, 2014, may be punished by death, but someone convicted of a capital murder committed on or after that date would be sentenced to life in prison without parole. The amendment was an attempt to win votes by ensuring Michael Addison - New Hampshire's lone death row inmate convicted in 2008 of killing a police officer - would be executed.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, has said she would sign the measure as long as Addison's death sentence remained intact.

Odell objected then as he is now to supporters' tactics.

"I'm not much into playing those kinds of games," he said Friday.

This is the closest a death penalty repeal measure has come since 2000, when both chambers passed it, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. The state's last execution was in 1939, when Howard Long was hanged for molesting and fatally beating a 10-year-old boy.


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