MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – A jury issued New Hampshire’s first death sentence in a half century Thursday to Michael Addison, who fatally shot a Manchester police officer to avoid arrest two years ago.

Addison, 28, had no reaction as the Hillsborough County Superior Court jury announced its verdict after about 13 hours of deliberation over four days. The defense said it will appeal.

The judge must formally impose the sentence, but cannot change it.

New Hampshire hasn’t executed anyone since 1939. The last time a New Hampshire court imposed the death penalty was in 1959, but the lives of the two convicted men were spared by a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In 2004, a federal judge in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty, ordered convicted killer Gary Sampson executed in New Hampshire, but Sampson is appealing and is being held in Indiana.

Jurors unanimously agreed that Addison deserves to die by injection for purposely shooting Officer Michael Briggs in the head.

Addison’s lawyers argued that his abusive childhood and possible brain damage from his mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant warranted a life sentence. The jury said brain damage hadn’t been proven.

Prosecutors emphasized Addison’s record of violent crime and the emotional toll Briggs’ murder took on his family and friends. Briggs’ wife, two young sons and parents attended the sentencing.

“This is what we wanted. This is what we got. I love my son and I’m glad,” said the father, former police officer Leland Briggs.

Addison’s father and other relatives testified at the trial, but none came Thursday.

In June, Judge Kathleen McGuire rejected claims that racial prejudice would prevent Addison, who is black, from getting a fair trial in predominantly white New Hampshire. She said there was no evidence that race influenced the state to seek the death penalty.

The jurors left court quickly on Thursday. The jury foreman was reached in the driveway of his Manchester home, but he declined to comment. Other jurors reached Thursday afternoon had no comment as well. They had been screened for bias in the fall and had to certify Thursday that race did not influence their decision.

The defense admitted on the first day of the trial that Addison killed Briggs, but said the act was reckless, not intentional.

“It was fast and it was totally unplanned,” defense attorney David Rothstein said in his opening statement. “It was a reckless act that ended in a terrible tragedy.”

Addison had been on a crime spree the week before the shooting and had said he would “pop a cop” if necessary. When Briggs, 35, and his bicycle partner came across Addison and friend Antoine Bell-Rogers in an alley early on Oct. 16, 2006, they recognized the men as a suspects in a recent shooting and two armed robberies and ordered them to stop. Addison turned and shot Briggs in the head at close range, testimony showed.

Prosecutors called the shooting cold-blooded and premeditated, but jurors rejected the state’s theory that Addison had planned to shoot an officer that night.

Earlier in the nine-week trial, the jury ruled that Addison purposely shot Briggs but did not purposely kill him. The defense cited the second conclusion as grounds for sparing Addison.

The defense also said Addison’s harsh childhood was grounds for mercy. Testimony showed that his late mother drank heavily, used drugs, and was known for violent outbursts, while his father smoked crack throughout Addison’s childhood in and around Boston and was rarely there for his son.

“None of this information is offered as an excuse or as a justification for anything that Michael did,” said defense attorney Richard Guerriero. “He is responsible for the choices he made as an adult, but you also have to recognize he could not control the choices that were made for him as a child.”

But Ayotte said sentencing Addison to life would have amounted to a free pass for Briggs’ murder because Addison faced decades in prison for other convictions.

“The flaws in his childhood simply cannot replace the pain and suffering that he has inflicted on innocent victims throughout adult life,” she argued. “There are millions (and) millions of people in this country who unfortunately come from far, far worse backgrounds than the defendant and they don’t go out and harm and murder people. That was his choice. … It’s shameful the defendant is using his deceased mother as an excuse for the repeated devastation that he has caused and his own choices he made as an adult.”

The state Supreme Court will automatically review the conviction and sentence, and Guerriero also promised an appeal.

“We continue to believe that the objections we made before the trial regarding this process are valid, especially objections regarding the location of the trial and the comparison of this case to other cases,” he said in a statement.

“We continue to believe the death penalty is wrong and we will continue to fight against it.”

The defense argued at trial that minority defendants are more likely to be sentenced to die than whites and said Addison couldn’t get a fair trial in a city that revered Briggs and was outraged by his murder. The defense also cited cases of premeditated multiple murders that did not result in death sentences.

In October, a jury in Brentwood handed down the state’s first capital murder conviction since 1959 in the murder-for-hire case of millionaire John Brooks, who is appealing. The jury gave Brooks, who is white, life without parole for arranging and taking part in the fatal beating of a man he believed had stolen from him.

State Rep. James Splaine, who has fought to repeal the death penalty, said he believes race influences death penalty cases nationally, but did not play a role in Addison’s case.

Splaine has submitted bills to the legislature to repeal the death penalty in years past with limited success. In 2000, the Legislature passed Splaine’s repeal bill, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it. The House failed to override the veto by 34 votes.

Lawmakers rejected repeal attempts in 2001, 2006 and last year, as well. Splaine said he is uncertain whether he will try again this session.

New Hampshire law limits the death penalty to a handful of situations including murder for hire and murder of a police officer.

Legal experts note that the law, unlike those in states such as Texas, has not been tested extensively in court. Law professor Albert Scherr said that process could take several years, and federal challenges could follow if state courts uphold the law and conviction.


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