Rep. Phil Greazzo (R-Manchester), is the sole sponsor of HB 162, a bill that would give New Hampshire the nation’s most expansive death penalty by making all “purposeful” homicides eligible to be charged as “capital murder.” The legislator’s stated objection to the status quo is that only some murderers can be executed under the state’s relatively narrow law. He says, “If we have the death penalty, it should apply equally to everyone or it should apply equally to no one.”
Now, he is giving legislators that choice. Rep. Greazzo plans to introduce an amendment to his own bill that would repeal the death penalty entirely. (You can see the text of his amendment by looking at the latest House Calendar and scrolling down through the list of “retained bills” scheduled for votes and past the “Member’s Notices” to the text of amendments.)
The debate over HB 162 is now scheduled for Wednesday, January 4.
Representatives will get to vote on repeal first. If the repeal amendment passes, the Senate will get a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty. Such a bill passed both houses in 2000, but was vetoed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
If Greazzo’s repeal amendment fails, the bill as written will come up for a vote, barring other surprises.
As I’ve said before, if we don’t like the notion that the state’s limited death penalty gives the impression that some homicide victims are more important than others, the road to equal treatment is through getting rid of capital punishment altogether.
Rather than making the death penalty more fair, the expanded death penalty as proposed in HB 162 would expand all of its problems: massive expense, discrimination based on race and class, prosecutorial misconduct, and the potential for convicting innocent people. An expanded death penalty would mean more victims’ family members would be dragged through years of hearings that will not bring back their loved ones. An expanded death penalty means more family members of convicted murderers would join the list of victims.
The Death Penalty Information Center’s end-of-the-year report showed that the actual use of the death penalty is losing favor in other states. New Hampshire should get on board with this trend, not take it in the opposite direction.
As the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says, “there’s no such thing as a fair death penalty.” That’s why repeal is the only just option.