New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill Thursday that would have abolished the state’s death penalty, saying that the state has an obligation to support law enforcement and deliver justice for victims, the Associated Press reports. Police officers crowded into his office to watch him veto the bill, as did family members of murder victims. After he was done, he gave his red veto pen to Laura Briggs, whose husband, Manchester Officer Michael Briggs, was shot to death in 2006. “If a person chooses to commit such an unspeakable act in our state, that person should know that a jury of their peers may elect to impose the ultimate justice,” Sununu said.
New Hampshire’s death penalty applies in seven scenarios: the killing of an on-duty law enforcement officer or judge, murder for hire, murder during a rape, certain drug offenses or home invasion and murder by a someone already serving a life sentence without parole. The state hasn’t executed anyone since 1939, and the repeal would not have applied retroactively to Michael Addison, who killed Briggs and is the state’s only inmate on death row. Some argued that imposing the death penalty doesn’t give victims the closure that repeal advocates assume it would. Laura Bonk was 23 when her mother was killed and her sister was shot in 1989 in Massachusetts. When the killer died of natural causes after 18 years in prison “there was no sense of closure or relief. The closure and relief came from the conviction,” she said. Jane Sylvestre supported Sununu’s decision. She attended the veto ceremony holding a photo of a nephew who was beaten to death in 2015 before his first birthday. “The guy that murdered him, all he got was life, he should be dead. I believe in the death penalty,” she said.