Three states, three repeal efforts

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Three states inched closer to repealing their death penalty laws this year. Washington, Utah, and New Hampshire have been debating repeal bills in the most recent legislative session, but so far, two have come up short, and one is still pending.

In New Hampshire on Monday, the Senate will debate a bill that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without parole. SB 593 has bipartisan support and 13 co-sponsors in the 24-member Senate. And although Governor Chris Sununu has vowed to veto the bill if it passes, New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says “With some work we can potentially secure a veto-proof majority.”

The bill would not apply to New Hampshire’s only death row inmate, Michael Addison, who was sentenced to death in 2006 for killing Police Officer Michael Briggs.

Legislative efforts to end Utah’s death penalty have made surprising progress over the last two years, but more work needs to be done to consolidate enough support to pass a bill. St. George News reports that Republican Rep. Gage Froerer said that while he “was hopeful that Utah would be one of the first red states to take this, because the trend obviously is to do away with the death penalty,” and that he was “convinced whether it’s next year or five or 10 years from now the death penalty will go away,” he opted to drop his efforts because there were not enough votes in the House to pass it. The state’s legislative session ended yesterday.

There are nine inmates on Utah’s death row. Its last execution was Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad in 2006.

A repeal bill in Washington appeared to have plenty of support, but time ultimately ran out in the legislative session. The bill had the backing of both Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson as well as legislators on both sides of the aisle, and passed the state Senate 26-22 on February 14. From there it was supposed to go to the state House of Representatives, but it didn’t make it to the House floor by the 5 p.m. deadline on March 2. Organizers remain hopeful that it will receive a vote (and pass) next year.

Gov. Inslee instituted a moratorium in 2014. The state’s last execution was in 2010.

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