The year 2009 saw a shift in New Hampshire, when the state legislature voted to form a Commission to Study the Death Penalty in order to look further into the pros and cons of continuing capital punishment. New Hampshire has not had an execution since 1939 and has only issued one death sentence in the past 50 years. The Commission has been meeting in Concord on the second Friday of every month, opening its doors to the public, and the topic for the today was “Whether the Death Penalty Comports with Evolving Moral Standards.”
The Commission will publish its findings on December 1, 2010, and so far has done its best to bring in a wide range of viewpoints, including members of law enforcement, murder victims’ families, as well as representatives from organizations opposed to the death penalty. There is no indication yet as to what the report might recommend.
During today’s hearing, Amnesty International USA’s Northeast Regional Director, Joshua Rubenstein, testified in front of the commission, making Amnesty’s case that the death penalty is one of the most fundamental of all human rights violations, and urging New Hampshire to abolish it. Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck and religious leaders also spoke.
Over 180 New Hampshire religious leaders also published a letter today expressing their sentiment that the death penalty indeed does NOT comport with evolving moral standards. The concluding paragraph of the letter reads:
“It is our respect for human life and our opposition to violence in our society that prompts us to join with other death penalty opponents in New Hampshire to advocate for repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty. We urge you to recommend that capital punishment be repealed in New Hampshire and that state resources be devoted to prevention of crime and achieving healing and restorative justice for victims.”