- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s state Senate is poised to take up a bill that would effectively end the use of the death penalty in the state without flat-out repealing it.

Republican Sen. Kevin Avard is the prime sponsor of a bipartisan measure to “suspend” use of the death penalty until “methods exist to ensure that the death penalty cannot be imposed on an innocent person.” New Hampshire is the only state in New England with the death penalty still on the books, and efforts to repeal it in 2014 deadlocked in the 24-member Senate.

The vote in Thursday’s Senate session will be close, likely with one or two votes determining the outcome. Not all senators could be reached Friday by The Associated Press for a full vote count.

Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing a Manchester police officer in 2006, is the state’s only person on death row. The bill says it would not affect anyone sentenced to death prior to the suspension.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said two years ago she would sign a repeal measure into law if it did not disrupt Addison’s death sentence.

New Hampshire’s last execution was in 1939, when Howard Long, an Alton shopkeeper who molested and beat a 10-year-old boy to death, was hanged.

The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been largely quiet on the bill in recent months as part of a strategy to keep swing-vote senators from feeling outside pressure as they make up their minds. But the group began asking its members last week to submit letters to newspapers across the state in support of the suspension.

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