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January 6, 2013

Notable new talk of death penalty repeal efforts in New Hampshire

This local article, headlined "Republican joins new bid to repeal death penalty," reports on renewed discussions in New Hampshire concerning possible abolition of capital punishment in the state.  Here are the details:

State Rep. Renny Cushing is back in the Legislature, after being ousted along with many other Democrats in 2010, and the co-sponsor of his signature legislation on death penalty repeal, Stephen Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, expects to have a better chance than ever of passing the bill.

The difference this time is that newly inaugurated Gov. Maggie Hassan has stated she opposes the death penalty. A previous bill authored by Cushing in 2009 that passed the House died in the Senate after Gov. John Lynch threatened to veto it. And before Lynch there was Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who vetoed a death penalty repeal that passed both chambers in 2000. Vaillancourt said Shaheen was "about the only Democrat in the state who opposed the repeal, but the only one who matters."...

Vaillancourt said he thinks Democrats are two or three times as likely as Republicans to favor death penalty repeal, so the 2012 surge of Democrats means "there's more of a chance than in the past." "I think we'll pass it in the House this year," said Vaillancourt, noting, "I don't have a count on the Senate."

State Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who Vaillancourt suggested might consider supporting the bill, said she's heard Cushing's "passionate testimony," but it hasn't changed her mind. She said she is unsure whether her fellow Republican senators would support the bill....

Cushing persuaded the majority of the House in the spring of 2009 after relating a personal story of his father's murder in 1988 by a neighbor who was a town police officer. "There was a knock on the front door ... my dad got up to open it and two shotgun blasts rang out, turned his chest into hamburger and he died in front of my mother in the home they lived in for 35 years and raised seven children," he testified.

And while his family wanted justice, Cushing testified that killing the man who killed his dad wasn't the answer. "The death penalty would not have brought my father back, it would only further victimize another family," he said. "If we make those who kill make us into killers, then evil triumphs. And we all lose."

Cushing's opposition to the death penalty, as the son of a victim of murder, flies in the face of what many might believe his stance would be. In addressing the issue, he has said he was brought up with a religious background and strong morality, and always opposed the death penalty. That opposition did not waver after his father's murder, he said. "If I changed my opinion it would have given my father's murderer more power," Cushing testified. "Not only would my father be taken from me but so would my values."

January 6, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Permalink


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"Cushing's opposition to the death penalty, as the son of a victim of murder, flies in the face of what many might believe his stance would be."

Right. And, then we have the legislature passing (or ready perhaps to pass w/o a veto threat) a death penalty repeal, a legislature voted for by the people. [Cf. the NY legislature passing it & Cuomo vetoing it. Then, the NY Court of Appeals found a problem with it and the legislature never passed a fix.]

Others disagree. Then, we have some of the comments found ... um other places.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 6, 2013 11:51:11 AM

I once was pro death penalty for everyone convicted and sentenced to death. I agreed they should have the right to appeal, but many abused that right,
However I have seen over the course of my adult life to many people who spent decades on death row found to be innocent by using DNA.
I still believe that animals like Richard Allen Davis, Richard Ramirez, and other admitted killers, lets not forget Scott Peterson. It seems those who are true animals who for the most part have never contributed anything to the society they live in. Unfortunately all of the "animals" I mentioned above are in California where the death penalty is a hollow threat. I am not blood thirsty. I lost my best friend who also happened to be my big brother to murder, and they were never caught. I am sure God will not forget them on their day of Judgement.
It really scares me that a innocent person will be executed. I am sure that has already happened. We cannot undo taking a persons life. Killers like Aileen Wuornos, and I truly believe that ugly mate of hers was well aware that her lover was killing men, and as long as she was getting the benefit of the cash that was blood money she was all in, but when the law caught wind of these 2 useless excuses of human life Moore was very quick to distance herself from Wuornos and she was fast to say she did not know she was killing those guys. Give me a break. Then we have Casey Anthony. That jury was a bunch of idiots, Anthony killed her baby, and blamed everyone but Jesus himself, and she told so many lies, she should get just what her poor child got, death. These are people that are guilty without any reasonable doubt. I know almost all death row inmates say they are innocent, I thing a small percentage of them are, and others who never committed a crime before, those who killed out of the heat of passion should not die for a single mistake. These guys admit what they did, they are pleasant, they seem like everyday people who may have found their wifes with other men, or found they had been hurting their children and lost it. They likely would never kill or commit any crime again, and since it cost more to execute someone than it does to keep them in prison I say we give these 1 time killers life with mercy, meaning that if they are well behaved prisoners they may be free again someday. The Richard davis;s and Ramirez type killers deserve the gas chamber. They are evil, they do not deserve a lethal injection that is a easy death, they deserve a long painful death. Ob the other hand, we must be able to be as sure as we can before we as a society put someone to death. If there is any chance that they are not guilty their date with death should be stayed or overturned. It is not like they are going free, they are going to be in a small cell with mean vicious gang members who will kill for nothing, and that is what they will look forward to day after day until they grow old and die. They will lose contact with their family, they will have poor food, sadistic guards in some places, although most guards are not bad people.
I cannot say abolish the death penalty, but I do say reform the death penalty, save it for the worst of the worst. It should not take a person serving a previous sentence for killing someone and then when they kill again, they get the death penalty.
I do not have the answers, I just gringe at the thought of a innocent person being executed.

Posted by: Dave W. | Jan 6, 2013 6:02:52 PM

Dave W: Then you agree. All transportation, including walking, should be suspended until the problem of the error rate has been solved. Hundreds of pedestrians are killed each year, and they have done nothing wrong.

The same problem is true of all human activity. All those should be stopped until their error rate is solved.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 6, 2013 8:37:57 PM

Dave W: No carefully concocted drugs for the victims of transportation. They are slashed, crushed, and torn apart using sharp metal and glass edges, while still alive.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 6, 2013 8:41:44 PM

Hey! Suppie! You idiot! in Europe we walk and drive without the death penalty

Posted by: Claudio GiustiI | Jan 7, 2013 8:49:04 AM

Dave W.: "It really scares me that a innocent person will be executed. I am sure that has already happened."


Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 7, 2013 10:27:16 AM

5% or more?

New England Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 4, 2012

While Americans generally agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent, and, as previous Gallup research has shown, widely acknowledge that some innocent people have been executed, most nevertheless support the death penalty as punishment for murder

Posted by: Claudio GiustiI | Jan 7, 2013 2:07:59 PM

They were conveniently nameless, Sr. Giustil?

Who on any death row currently are innocent?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 7, 2013 4:15:54 PM

American justice is absolutely infallible

Posted by: Claudio GiustiI | Jan 7, 2013 5:04:07 PM

The Innocence Project, a fairly recent group which only addresses the very few cases which can conclusively be determined by DNA evidence (a tiny subset death cases), has already gotten over 100 exonerated. How can you possibly claim that we haven't executed the innocent? You'd have to extrapolate that 100 of this tiny subset in the last few years, when generalized, would be nobody anywhere else or under any other circumstance. It is preposterous. What about those killed before the Innocence Project began? What about those for whom DNA evidence is irrelevant or inconclusive--the vast majority of cases?

Also, if you want a specific name, try Cameron Willingham. He was convicted and sentenced to death for an arson-murder based on the testimony local fire officials that used junk science. Every prominent fire investigator/scientist--including ones that have long worked for state and federal authorities and are established leaders in the field--have concluded that arson was impossible.

Posted by: Barfbag | Jan 7, 2013 9:41:50 PM

With a name like "Barfbag," it's got to be good.

"""' ' ' arson was impossible' ' '"""
For Willingham, Willingham, Willingham, thank you, finally the name of a bona fide "innocent".
...................[As an aside, how many of the Innocent Project's 100+ exonerees were executed?]

Here's the observational truth, Part I.

1.)"For Hensley, [a certified arson investigator] the most damning evidence came from Willingham, who told officers that 2-year-old Amber woke him up. Firefighters later found her in his bed, with burns on the soles of her feet. Yet, Willingham didn’t take the girl with him when he fled, nor did he receive burns walking down that same hallway, Hensley pointed out."

["Willingham was taken to the hospital where doctors did a blood-gas analysis on him, a standard test for someone who’s been inside a burning house.“He had no more (carbon monoxide) than somebody who had just smoked a cigarette,” Hensley said."]

2.) "Dr. Grady Shaw and his team spent an hour at the emergency room trying to resuscitate Amber while next door Willingham complained about his own suffering, Shaw said. “I remember this case very clearly…” Shaw said. “[Willingham's] complaining and asking for attention when everybody was trying to save the little girl’s life was grossly inappropriate.” "…[T]he children inhibited his lifestyle,” said John Jackson, former district judge.

3.)"Evidence of *accelerants was found, but Willingham had an excuse for that, too. Willingham told investigators he *poured cologne on the children’s floor “because the babies liked the smell,” he blamed a *kerosene lamp for any accelerant in the hallway, and said *spilled charcoal-lighter fluid happened while he was grilling, Fogg recalled." "Doug Fogg, a Corsicana firefighter for 31 years, was the first responder to arrive."

4.)"Willingham had a lot of excuses for the fire, Fogg recalled, including that a stranger entered the house and set the fire, that the 2-year-old started it, that a ceiling fan or squirrels in the attic caused an electrical short, or the gas space heaters in the children’s bedroom sparked it."

5.)"The investigators searched for electrical shorts, but found none; the gas-powered space heaters were off because the family’s gas supply had been cut off at the meter; and “we didn’t find a ceiling fan. Willingham said there was one, but we didn’t find any signs of one,” Fogg said."~Corsica Daily Sun, 9/6/09, 9/7/09

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 8, 2013 10:08:52 AM

Here's the observational truth, Part II.

6.)"The other explanations just didn’t add up, Fogg said, adding: “We eliminated all accidental causes.” "[F]our empty bottles of charcoal lighter were found just outside the front door."

7.)"Tony Ayala [neighbor] told Corsicana police Detective Seth Fuller on Oct. 6 that he saw Willingham packing his vehicle and moving it out of the carport as smoke poured out of the house."~Sfgate.com, 10/16/09

"Todd Morris was the first police officer on the scene and he found Willingham trying to push his car away from the house to save it from the fire, while his children were inside burning up, Hensley said.

8.)"[T]he Texas Forensic Science Commission reached no conclusions about whether Willingham was convicted and executed based on evidence now considered scientifically unreliable."~Austin American Statesman,4/14/11

9.) "[Stacy Kuykendall]…told reporters that Cameron Todd Willingham set the fire that killed the girls: "My ex-husband murdered my daughters, and just before he was executed, he told me he did it- he stood and watched while their tiny bodies burned," Kuykendall said.~ Austin American Statesman,10/6/10

10.) Willingham's last words: "I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby. I hope you rot in hell, bitch; I hope you fucking rot in hell, bitch. You bitch; I hope you fucking rot, cunt. That is it."

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 8, 2013 10:12:57 AM

bullshit! NO ARSON:NO CRIME!

Posted by: Claudio GiustiI | Jan 8, 2013 10:33:44 AM

Claudio GiustiI:

Are you a strawman, or are you a real liberal?

Your responses seem like a fake set-up by conservatives to embarrass the
anti-American/antinomian/atheist/Euro-homo-erotic/liberal ('progressive') cause.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 8, 2013 1:49:02 PM

I agree, no arson is no crime. We know, from hundreds of cases, that people do and say all kinds of screwy things, including implicating themselves (though it wasn't until science started to shed a light on this phenomenon that people were actually willing to believe it, and now it is accepted fact). Willingham was no saint, and may not have cared that his daughters died, but it wasn't arson. Texas couldn't find anyone but the local fire investigator-a man with no scientific training whose methods have been discredited-to agree that it was arson. Again, longtime government experts concluded it wasn't.

Your statement about the Innocence Project demonstrates you missed the entire point. Of course none of them have been executed. However, I challenged you to explain how you can believe no innocents are executed when this fairly recent program targeting a tiny amount of death row inmates has already freed 100. Is it plausible to think that before this project was started, there were no innocents killed? Is it plausible to think that in the vast majority of cases this Project cannot touch, because they don't involve conclusive DNA proof, there are no innocents killed? 100+ wrongful death sentences in a tiny fraction of cases is not a promising figure.

Posted by: Barfbag | Jan 8, 2013 2:01:09 PM

dear Adam,
I am against death penalty and for Human Rights. I began 40 years ago with Soviet dissidents. How do you call this?

Posted by: Claudio GiustiI | Jan 8, 2013 3:58:24 PM

Adamakis --

Nice posts full of facts. I beleive that, in addition, Willingham's own lawyer has admitted that his client was guilty. When the courts find it and the lawyer admits it, tilted sites like the Innocence Project are a poor answer.

Barfbag --

Extrapolation is not evidence. There have been about 1300 executions in the last 37 years since the SCOTUS reinstated the death penalty. In not one single case has a court found that the person executed was factually innocent.

And let's not hear the old line that post-execution innocence can't be proved in court. Decedent's estate brings a wrongful death action.

The problem is not that such a case is procedurally impossible. The problem is that, for 37 years and over hundreds and hundreds of cases, the abolitionist side has simply lacked the goods to prove a single case. With a record like that, I wouldn't be crowing too loudly.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 8, 2013 4:53:53 PM


"And let's not hear the old line that post-execution innocence can't be proved in court. Decedent's estate brings a wrongful death action."

But how are they supposed to prove it? How can they do so when DNA evidence is not conclusive. Absent something like DNA evidence or a magic video, how do you conclusively prove innocence? It's simple. You couldn't, at least in the vast majority of cases. In most cases, guilt/innocence does not turn on conclusive evidence. Otherwise, organizations like the Innocence Project would be using those conclusive methods as well.

Thus, the fact that in the last 37 years there have been no conclusively proven innocence claims--if true--does nothing to prove anything when the number of cases in which that were even possible would be a miniscule portion of death penalty cases.

Given that, it is entirely plausible to suppose that if 100+ mistakes were made in a tiny subset of cases in which conclusive proof is possible, at least 1 mistake has occurred in the thousands of other cases. And I think it preposterous to think that 100+ mistakes in a tiny subset of cases can be consistent--in the real world--with no mistakes in any other cases.

Also, how dare you call me a barfbag.

Posted by: Barfbag | Jan 8, 2013 6:36:44 PM

A number of those conclusively proven innocent by the Innocence Project also admitted to their crimes, and also had lawyers that didn't believe in their innocence. We know--because of psychological science largely rejected by traditionalists who believe that the mind is simple, black and white--that people confess to crimes they don't commit. We also know--because of our own experience--how short-sighted, stupid, or incompetent criminal defense lawyers can be. We also know, from the many DNA cases, that science speaks in a voice unlike that of the defendant, his counsel, the prosecutor, or the jury.

Why can't Texas find a respected arson investigator--democrat or republican, defense expert or lifetime witness for the government--that is willing to say that the scientific evidence in Willingham's case was legitimate? Why are so many experts, including those that work for the government, concluding to the contrary? And if their expertise--of which we know nothing yet presume to know enough to reject--is so suspect, why is the government ever relying on such experts to convict people?


Posted by: Subethis | Jan 8, 2013 7:17:40 PM

Barfbag --

"Also, how dare you call me a barfbag."

May God be praised, an abolitionist with a sense of humor. This site has needed you for a long time.

"But how are they supposed to prove it?"

Two answers. First, my teachers drove it home to me that, if you can't prove it, don't claim it. Second, abbies were falling all over themselves in the Willingham case itself, claiming that they could readily prove in a Texas court of inquiry that Willingham was innocent. Unfortunately, if memory serves, they seemed unable to prove it before a neutral judge, and the Texas appellate court kicked the biased judge, the abolitionist flamer Charlie Baird, off the case. With only neutral judges left, the Willingham case has gone nowhere.

It's a little disconcerting to hear, from the same side in the same case, both that (1) we're going to prove it, and (2) such claims cannot be proved.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 8, 2013 11:53:21 PM

Humor makes life better, and I appreciate your recognition of mine.

I think you may have missed a "second," as you listed a first, so I don't know if you intended to address the point, but I will repeat my issue. Regardless of what claims were made in the Willingham case, I think you would agree that in the vast majority of cases, to conclusively prove innocence--even if the defendant was actually innocent--would be nearly impossible. Think of the kind of evidence that could do that. DNA is one example, because it is like an on/off switch. It is either there, or it isn't. It is not subject to subjective opinion. It is not for a jury to assess credibility of competing claimants. A long-lost videotape might be another. But in the vast majority of cases, where conviction is not based on such conclusive evidence, innocence won't, either. Given that it would thus be a very small subset of cases that could be conclusively proven innocent, the absence of such cases outside of that subset--namely, the DNA subset--is not surprising. It is understandable, and does not reflect that there were no actual innocence cases.

What is startling for me is that this tiny subset of DNA cases has 100+ innocent people who were slated to die, yet we can still think that outside of this unique subset there would be 0 innocent people slated to die. I think you need to address how that could be.


Posted by: Barfbag | Jan 9, 2013 12:05:49 AM

Sorry, I just saw your "second" on my own second read, so ignore my ignorance of it.

Posted by: Barfbag | Jan 9, 2013 12:06:41 AM

: :"for Human Rights. I began 40 years ago with Soviet dissidents. How do you call this?" : :

Claudio GiustiI:
Sounds like good, amazing, courageous work. No way I'll kick against the traces & disparage your good efforts.
{Chi be vive, ben muore}

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 10, 2013 2:24:45 PM

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