CONCORD, New Hampshire — An attorney for New Hampshire's only death row inmate is challenging the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law.
In a recently filed motion, a lawyer for Michael Addison argues that the two methods of execution allowed by New Hampshire — lethal injection and hanging — violate the state and federal constitution, including the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The attorney argues the drugs needed for lethal injection are unavailable and would inflict pain and suffering.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin says the state plans to file a response.
Addison was sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of a Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. The state Supreme Court upheld his sentence in April.
David Rothstein, Addison's attorney, said he also plans to file an appeal of the case with the U.S. Supreme Court within the next month.
New Hampshire's last execution was in 1939, and lethal injection was added as an execution method in 1986. The state has no designated facility for carrying out executions. Department of Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn has said the state may use a prison gymnasium to carry out Addison's execution rather than construct a costly new facility.
In the motion, first reported by New Hampshire Public Radio, Rothstein argues it will be difficult for the state to obtain the drugs necessary to ensure Addison is not subject to pain and suffering. Because New Hampshire has never put anyone to death by lethal injection, the state has not developed proper procedures or protocols, he argued.
"A constitutional lethal injection process is dependent on the proper administration of the right drugs, in the right dosages, delivered by the right people, with the right safeguards," Rothstein wrote.
State law says executions can be carried out by hanging if it is impractical to use lethal injection. Rothstein argues death by hanging "offends contemporary norms and standards of decency."
The filing mentions recent executions in Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma, where lethal injection procedures caused the people being put to death to gasp for air or writhe in pain.
"These executions demonstrate that lethal injection . . . poses an acute risk of intolerable suffering," the motion says. "The fact that these states have experience with lethal injection, and New Hampshire has none, is cause for even greater concern."
Legislative efforts to repeal the death penalty over the past decade have failed. The debate over repeal in 2014 focused heavily on Addison, with repeal opponents arguing it could jeopardize the state's ability to legally execute him. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who prosecuted Addison while serving as attorney general, urged lawmakers not to pass repeal.
Both the House and Senate passed a repeal bill in 2000, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, now a U.S. senator, vetoed it.