By Mindi Messmer
Posted Mar 2, 2019 at 1:05 PMUpdated Mar 2, 2019 at 1:05 PM
On Thursday March 7, the full House will vote on whether to repeal the death penalty in NH. The bill received an “ought to pass” recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Ninety-five out of the 100 people who spoke at the public hearing on Feb. 19 supported House Bill 455. These included murder victim family members, police officers, former judges, attorneys general, and clergy members. The testimony was incredibly moving and touched on all the different perspectives on this issue.
As a scientist and former House Representative, I was first struck by the data on the death penalty. States without the death penalty consistently have lower homicide rates, including law enforcement, proving that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent. NH has already spent over $5.5 million on a single death penalty case and will spend millions more. This is far more than the cost of life in prison which is less than $2 million for 40 years.
I was also struck by personal conversations with death row exonerees who were wrongly convicted. For a variety of reasons, we sometimes get it wrong and a death penalty cannot be reversed.
I also heard important messages from physicians who are ethically barred from direct involvement in putting someone to death, and former prosecutors who talked about stress associated with having to be a part of the complicated legal process. Prison guards and other attendants at executions suffer from PTSD and higher rates of drug abuse and suicide.
But to me, the most important messages were from the family members of the murdered victims who suffer re-traumatization from years and years of appeals. I also heard the pain from family members of victims about the assumption that killing another person on their behalf is ultimately the solution to the loss of their loved one.
As a mother of two young men, I would like to be able to say that in 2019 NH has proudly sent a clear message that we do not support this “eye for an eye” mentality, and murder is wrong no matter who carries it out.
Please help support the death penalty repeal and HB455 by contacting your House Representatives and Senators to express your thoughts.
Democrat Mindi Messmer of Rye is a former state representative.