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New Hampshire Legislature overrides governor's veto and repeals death penalty

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The state has not executed anyone since 1939

(Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

New Hampshire's state Senate has overruled Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and officially repealed the state's death penalty.

Here's what we know

In April, Sununu vetoed a bill to ban all future death penalty sentences.

On Thursday, the state Senate overrode that veto by a vote of 16-8, with not a vote to spare to reach the two-thirds majority necessary for such an action. The override was bipartisan, with 12 Democrats and four Republicans voting in favor of it and two Democrats and six Republicans voting against. The New Hampshire state House had previously voted to override the governor's veto by a similarly slim margin.

State Sen. Melanie Levesque (D) called the death penalty "archaic, costly, discriminatory, and final."

From a practical standpoint, the repeal will change little. Even with the death penalty on the books, New Hampshire had not executed any prisoners since 1939. There is currently one prisoner in the state on death row: Michael Addison who killed a police officer in 2006. The law was constructed to not apply to Addison's already decided case.

And while the death penalty had previously been legal under state law, New Hampshire currently has no practical means to carry this out by lethal injection. It has no approved way to obtain the compounds needed for lethal injection, nor does it have an approved place for the execution to occur.

Death by hanging was, until Thursday, still a legal alternative in the state if lethal injection was not possible, but it seems unlikely that this could happen in 2019 without public outcry.

What did the governor say?

On Thursday, Sununu said he was disappointed that the Senate had overridden his veto.

"I have consistently stood with law enforcement, families of crime victims, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty because it is the right thing to do," he said.

While New Hampshire lawmakers have been trying to get the death penalty repealed for decades, multiple governors have thwarted their efforts. Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed an anti-death penalty bill in 2000, and in 2011, Gov. John Lynch (D) expanded the existing death penalty law to cover additional crimes.

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