NH Supremes Hear Addison Appeal
The New Hampshire Supreme Court building is made of cold granite and cold brick, with a cold, gold dome perched on top. Some people might say that’s appropriate for a building dedicated to justice.
But today’s hearing on the state’s intent to execute Michael Addison for killing Michael Briggs seemed only abstractly related to “justice.” Certainly the Court represents “law” and represents “order.” But “justice?”
Inside the Court, lawyers were arguing arcane details of 22 arguments made by defense lawyers. As one observer noted afterward, it was hard to tell they were discussing whether or not the State of New Hampshire should kill a human being. The word “execution” was not uttered, she said.
Outside, in the warm sun for most of the day, a band of death penalty abolition activists conducted a vigil to summon forth a form of justice that goes beyond the realm of legal procedure. About 30 people stood silently outside the Court from 8 to 9 am as participants and observers arrived for the Court hearing. Another group of more than 40 people, mostly a different crew from those who had been there in the morning, stood vigil from 3 to 4 pm as the Court hearing adjourned.
Unitarians, Episcopalians, Quakers, Catholics, even a person who identified herself as being from the “Church of Witchcraft,” bore witness to the simple concept that the State should not take life in order to punish the taking of a life.
Most noteworthy was the presence of John Breckenridge, a former Manchester police officer. Breckenridge was the partner of Michael Briggs and was with him on October 16, 2006 when they pursued two crime suspects through the dark streets of Manchester. Michael Addison, one of the suspects, turned and shot Officer Briggs as he ran. Briggs died from the gunshot wounds in the hospital. Addison was soon caught and charged with capital murder, a crime for which he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death.
Arriving shortly after the vigil’s start this morning, Breckenridge quietly took his place and stood silently facing the Court. Although he did not seek publicity, reporters from WMUR-TV recognized him. Speaking in a calm and straightforward tone, Breckenridge told them he is against the death penalty as a matter of his religious faith. The story aired on the noon news.
New Hampshire’s death penalty could have been repealed years ago had it not been for the power of the police lobby. With John Breckenridge joining the public ranks of death penalty opponents, the balance may have tipped.
Today’s vigils were organized by the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. As the sun went down, participants lit candles and continued their silent witness, knowing their presence outside the Court was just one step toward abolition.