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Forum, May 16: Time to stand up for a just society


Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Time to stand up for a just society

Death. Violence. Grief. Sadness. Anger. Hate. Revenge. There is no shortage of these in the world around us. It doesn’t take long to realize that our news cycles feed off of these voyeuristic opportunities. But lately, something else has been in the news: New Hampshire has voted to abolish the death penalty. Then, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the bill. On May 23, HB 455 will return to the House, seeking a two-thirds majority to override the veto.

I know this is a topic that many people are passionate about, myself included. For some, like Sununu, killing another human poses no moral conundrum. Others, like myself, cannot reconcile killing another human with any of my spiritual, religious, moral, political or social convictions. Some stand in the middle. But pitting ourselves against one another will not help New Hampshire craft a just society rooted in love of God and neighbor.

We have an opportunity on May 23. We have an opportunity to side with justice and against revenge. The facts of the matter are clear, as attested to by citizens across the political spectrum at hearings over these past few months. The death penalty does not work. It is inhumane. It does not bring peace or justice, only revenge and more murder at the hands of the state. It is more expensive than life without parole. Groups of law enforcement officers and survivors of those related to victims have advocated for the repeal of the death penalty for years.

We have an historic opportunity in this state to stand against death, violence, murder, grief, anger, hate and revenge and to stand up for a just society that strives to look a little bit more like a beloved community. As an ordained priest in a body of about 3.5 million members, I stand on the side of justice, hope and love. Let’s repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire in 2019.

THE REV. KYLE SEIBERT

Hanover

The writer is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Hanover.

Life imprisonment is more effective

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that still has a death penalty. Even though a bill to repeal it has been passed twice by the Legislature with bipartisan support, Gov. Chris Sununu decided to veto it a second time. In his announcement, he framed the veto as his way of supporting police officers and victims of violent crime.

However, when Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center summarized 31 years of FBI homicide data in testimony before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, he explained that the data show that “officers are disproportionately murdered in states that have the death penalty, as compared to states that don’t.” The death penalty, he testified, has not made officers safer.

The death penalty is a form of retaliation. But the act of retaliation — an eye for an eye — does not restore sight. Recognizing this, and in spite of unimaginable grief in the aftermath of a loved one’s murder, many relatives of victims have spoken out against the death penalty.

If the objective is punishment, life imprisonment is a far more effective consequence. Publicized execution makes a spectacle of death, and ensures that the perpetrator will be remembered.

Please urge your representatives to vote to override the veto on May 23.

To learn more about how the death penalty is not a deterrent, costs taxpayers more than incarceration and sometimes sentences innocent people to death, visit the Death Penalty Information Center at deathpenaltyinfo.org.

CLYDE WATSON

Etna

Eager for overturn of Sununu’s veto

I’ll be delighted to see the New Hampshire Legislature overturn Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of the death penalty repeal.

I say this not so much because I hate the death penalty as because I despise the governor’s political grandstanding. I differ from liberal orthodoxy on the ethics of the death penalty. I’ve just never heard a knockdown argument against it on the moral level. But it’s a serious question and merits the highest respect. It might be wrong to kill people, even as a response to their own violent actions, in which case we shouldn’t do so. On the other hand, I strongly dislike the death penalty because, practically speaking, it doesn’t work. If it did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

I’ve been appalled by the cynical, shallow and misleading talking points the New Hampshire GOP keeps using in support of capital punishment. The governor said we need to keep the death penalty to deter all forms of violent crime. Tell that to Texas and Florida, which all but run a conveyor belt through death row. (Executing humans is probably the only thing that Texas does liberally.) New Hampshire hasn’t made use of the death penalty in nearly a century. It’s a relic. So how is it deterring violent crime?

Mark Chase, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, reportedly said that repealing the death penalty will leave no law against the murder of policemen. Nonsense. We have laws against murdering people, including police officers. The argument is silly. But if you want to further protect our officers, write new laws to that effect. There can — and should — be elevated punishments for killing a police officer. They just don’t have to include the death penalty. Easy enough.

The Legislature represents the will of the people. The governor ought to have accepted its repeal vote as such. Instead, he threw a petty political tantrum to score a few points with the conservative base. In a matter as serious as this, that’s disgraceful. It’ll be a pleasure to see him rebuked.

SAM KILLAY

Claremont

N.H. without the death penalty

On May 23, the New Hampshire Legislature will have the second opportunity in as many years to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill to repeal the death penalty. Earlier this spring, HB 455 came out of both the House and the Senate with the supermajorities needed to override a veto. If all the legislators who voted for repeal at that time return on the 23rd and vote to overturn, New Hampshire will take an historic step and join the 20 states and District of Columbia that have said no to the death penalty.

My sincerest thanks and appreciation go to state Reps. Richard Abel, Susan Almy, Laurel Stavis and George Sykes, and also to state Sen. Martha Hennessey, for their persistent leadership and votes on this issue. Also to the leaders and volunteers of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who have worked so steadfastly and shown such resolve for more than 20 years.

New Hampshire can live without the death penalty. This has always been true. With hope, it will become a New Hampshire reality soon.

LINDSAY DEARBORN

Lebanon