Capital Murder in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has a capital murder statute. One clear way to commit capital murder in New Hampshire is to knowingly cause the death of a law enforcement officer. An example of this type of capital murder involves Michael Addison and his killing of Manchester Police Officer, Michael Briggs.

It happened in the early morning hours of October. 16, 2006. At about 1:45 a.m., Officer Michael Briggs and his partner, Officer John Breckenridge got the call. They heard a report of gunshots being fired in a second-floor apartment on Lake Street in Manchester. The officers went to the apartment. After a while, they checked on a lead. They rode their bikes on various streets, finally arriving at Litchfield Lane. This is where Officer Briggs’ life was taken.

Court records reflect the following: After approaching and commanding a hooded suspect to stop three times, Officer Briggs was shot at close range. Officer Breckenridge watched his partner fall. Officer Breckenridge then drew his weapon and shot four rounds at a fleeing man later determined to be Michael Addison.  Michael Addison is the only prisoner on death row in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has not executed anyone for well over 70 years but plans are underway to do that to Mr. Addison.

New Hampshire used to execute prisoners on death row by hanging. While New Hampshire replaced hanging with lethal injection in 1986, it has yet to build an execution chamber, adopt a protocol for injection or take other critical steps to comply with constitutional requirements. Those things will happen. They have to happen to carry out Mr. Addison’s execution.

Mr. Addison’s history is predictable. His mother was violent. She was mentally ill and an alcoholic. Mr. Addison’s father was a drug-dealing criminal with a low IQ and a usual role as an accomplice rather than the instigator in street crime. Capital murder convictions cause us all to think about capital punishment. The debate is always heated. There are good points on either side. In fact, I would dare say that my own position on the topic has shifted over time.

I look at Michael Addison and I look at his parents. Michael Addison never had a chance and for that he has my compassion. On the other hand, he knowingly took the life of a brave police officer. For that, I am upset. I want him to pay a heavy price. We can’t accept what Michael Addison did and I presume he will pay the ultimate price. But if he does so, he will do so even though the most recent debate on abolishing the death penalty failed on a 12-12 vote in the New Hampshire Senate.

What a tough issue to resolve!