Former circuit judge to lead conversation on death penalty repeal Thursday

  • Peterborough Attorney L. Phillips Runyon III will lead a conversation on Thursday at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture about a campaign to appeal the death penalty in the state. File photos—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, November 27, 2018 11:19AM

Attorney and former circuit-court judge, L. Phillips Runyon III plans to lead a discussion Thursday about repealing the death penalty in New Hampshire.

Runyon retired from the bench last year. Once he was no longer a judge, he began looking into how he could contribute to a process to repeal the state’s death penalty, he said Monday.

“I wanted to make this issue one I worked on, as it was one that I couldn’t really say anything about it prior to retiring from that job,” Runyon said. “I’ve just thought for many years the death penalty is a barbaric practice.”

Over 100 countries have outlawed the death penalty, including neighboring Mexico and Canada, and most of the United State’s major allies, Runyon said. In the United States, New Hampshire is the last of the New England states to retain the death penalty.

On Thursday Runyon plans to present a 25-minute film, “NH Law Enforcement Veterans Confront the Death Penalty,” and will be joined by one or more of the people featured in the film for a discussion after the film is shown. The talk is taking place at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough.

The event is sponsored by the N.H. Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which is preparing for a new repeal campaign during the 2019 legislative session.

New Hampshire has twice passed legislation repealing the death penalty, once in 2000, and once just last year, but both times, the repeal was vetoed by the Governor. In 2014, the state House passed a repeal bill, which then-Governor Maggie Hassan indicated willingness to sign, but the bill died in the state Senate on a tie vote.

The N.H. Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will be campaigning again this year, with the hope that the recent changes in the legislature following the midterm elections will allow for enough votes to overturn a veto.

Since the state has not executed an inmate since 1939, Runyon said the death penalty is unlikely to be an active deterrent against capital crimes. And because capital cases often undergo years – even decades – of appeal processes, it can both be painful for the families and expensive for the courts, Runyon said.

“It has always seemed to me that it’s the easy way out. When someone is executed, it means they don’t have to spend the rest of their life in prison, thinking about what they’ve done. They get relieved of that burden,” Runyon said.

The state currently has one inmate on death row, Michael Addison, who was convicted in 2006 for the murder of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs. Addison is in the midst of the appeal process at the federal level. If New Hampshire repealed its death penalty, it would not apply retroactively to Addison’s case.

The event will be held at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. The event is free, but tax-deductible donations are requested. Refreshments will be served.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.