An Overwhelming Testimony to Repeal
The New Hampshire Commission to Study the Death Penalty is wrapping up its work after a year hearing voices in support of repeal
For Immediate Release: September 28, 2010
New Hampshire’s death penalty study commission, which started its investigation in October 2009, just concluded its final hearing.
The Commission has heard from over a hundred witnesses on issues such as innocence, fairness, public safety, and alternatives. The review has been a showcase of the death penalty’s litany of problems.
Ray Krone and Juan Melendez testified about spending years on death row for crimes they didn’t commit. They were exonerated not because of the system, they said, but in spite of it.
Family members of murder victims testified about how the death penalty system can prolong their pain. Laura Bonk, whose mother was murdered, said, “Each day of waiting for a trial is a day that’s not lived fully. It is a day of stress and anxiety.” The length of time capital cases take, she said, “must cause great harm to the victims’ family.” She also spoke of how the death penalty divides victims, sending the message that some lives are more valuable than others.
And the Commission heard from people who are often ignored in this debate – corrections officials who carry out executions. Former prison wardens Ron McAndrew and Dr. Allen Ault spoke about psychological scarring widespread amongst the corrections officers involved in executions. Both men asked for New Hampshire to honor their corrections officers by not putting them through the trauma that the death penalty system necessitates.
The Commission also held 3 public hearings that drew packed in crowds. At one hearing, more chairs had to be dragged out of the closet. In all, around 500 Granite Staters attended. About 65 of them testified and out of that 65, no more than six spoke out against repeal.
IIn December the Commission will issue its final report. “The Commission heard an overwhelming body of evidence that the death penalty is broken," said Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of Equal Justice USA, a national organization working to end the death penalty in New Hampshire and other states. "We are hopeful that the final words and recommendations will reflect this overwhelming consensus.”