2011 Summer, Pg. 24. Death penalty - in limited circumstances, an appropriate punishment.

AuthorBy John C. Kissinger, Jr.

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2011 Summer, Pg. 24.

Death penalty - in limited circumstances, an appropriate punishment

New Hampshire Bar JournalVolume 52, No. 2Summer 2011Death penalty - in limited circumstances, an appropriate punishmentBy John C. Kissinger, Jr.I am not in favor of abolishing the death penalty. It is my belief that in very limited circumstances the death penalty represents appropriate punishment. Although I join in the majority report, my reasons for supporting capital punishment differ in certain respects from aspects of the majority report. Like many of those who spoke eloquently before the Commission, I share a personal belief in the sanctity of life. This belief must be balanced against the sincere and legitimate societal interest in "justice."

In reaching my opinion, I draw upon my experience as a prosecutor working in the Attorney General's office. In particular, I recall the pain and anguish suffered by family members of murder victims. I recognize that the family members of murder victims who testified before the Commission do not have a single unified view on the acceptability of capital punishment. The views of people of good faith can be found on both sides of this issue. As I listened to the moving testimony from the many family members of murder victims, I was reminded of the ongoing struggles faced by the survivors with whom I worked. The devastating consequences caused by the heinous act of murder cannot be overstated.

Reserving the death penalty for the few who society concludes to be the perpetrators of the most heinous forms of murder is measured and appropriate. It is important to point out the extremely narrow circumstances in which the death penalty statute has been applied in New Hampshire over the past 70 years. It is hard not to conclude from this experience that the death penalty has not been over-utilized or abused by prosecutors. This limited application strikes a balance between the demands of society for just punishment for the perpetrators of the most serious offenses with a respect for the sanctity of human life.

I am not persuaded by the use of economic models to find a measurable correlation between the presence of a capital murder statute and avoidance...

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