New Hampshire came close to becoming the 20th state to ban the death penalty on Thursday, falling just one vote short in the Republican-controlled state Senate. The House passed the measure in March with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle, and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) said she would sign it if it passed the Senate. After the 12-12 tie vote, the Granite State remains the last in New England with the death penalty intact.
New Hampshire has just one inmate on death row, 34-year-old Michael Addison, who was convicted in 2009 of killing a police officer. The slain officer’s partner, John Breckinridge, penned an op-ed this year expressing regret over how he had publicly pushed for the death penalty for Addison and calling for a repeal.
The death penalty has largely fallen out of favor across the country, with most executions concentrated in just 2 percent of counties in the US. Most recently, Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) suspended the death penalty because he felt there were too many flaws in the system to assure that justice was being served. Indeed, studies show death sentences are often racially skewed. The vast majority of executions for interracial murder involve a black perpetrator and white victim, while the killers of minority victims rarely receive the death penalty.
Another reason for the steadily declining use of death sentences is simply a practical concern; capital punishment tends to be exorbitantly expensive, and lethal drugs are increasingly difficult to procure. The states that continue to execute people are experimenting with questionable alternatives like unapproved drugs or firing squads.