One of These Is Not Like the Other

December 18, 2008

(A) A white millionaire and (B) an indigent black man … Same state … Both convicted of capital murder … Which one do you think gets the death penalty? 

If you answered (B) – and I know you did – then, of course, you’re right.

In the state of New Hampshire, which hasn’t carried out an execution since 1939 and has no death row or execution chamber, Michael Addison, an indigent black man convicted of killing a white police officer, today received the first death sentence in New Hampshire in almost 50 years

In early November, John “Jay” Brooks, a white millionaire, was also convicted of capital murder, and his jury found that the state had adequately proven all the aggravating factors necessary to secure a death sentence.  But they still rejected the death penalty for Brooks.  As his lawyer Monica Foster wisely put it, Brooks is “not the kind of people juries routinely kill.”

But they do kill people like Michael Addison.

Or at least they try to.  Most death sentences are never carried out, and that is especially true in the execution-shy Northeast.

Meanwhile New Hampshire taxpayers, facing at least $60 million in budget cuts, will now have finance the construction a death row and a death chamber for one inmate, and can look forward to funding decades of appeals in a vain effort to get to an execution that will almost certainly never happen.