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State v. Addison

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

April 30, 2015

The State of New Hampshire
v.
Michael Addison (Capital Murder -- Proportionality Review)

Argued January 15, 2015

Hillsborough-northern judicial district

Affirmed.

Joseph A. Foster, attorney general (Jeffery A. Strelzin, senior assistant attorney general, and John J. Kennedy, assistant attorney general, on the brief, and Mr. Strelzin orally), for the State.

David M. Rothstein, deputy director public defender, and Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief, and Mr. Rothstein orally, for the defendant.

DALIANIS, C.J., and HICKS, CONBOY, LYNN, and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 552

Per curiam.

In 2008, the defendant, Michael Addison, was convicted of the 2006 capital murder of Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs and sentenced to death. We subsequently affirmed the defendant's conviction for capital murder, concluding that his sentence was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor, and that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's findings of aggravating circumstances. State v. Addison (Capital Murder), 165 N.H. 381, 412, 87 A.3d 1 (2013); see RSA 630:5, X-XII (2007). At this final stage of our mandatory review, we are required by statute to address " [w]hether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant." RSA 630:5, XI(c). We conclude that the defendant's sentence is neither excessive nor disproportionate and, accordingly, affirm his sentence of death.

In State v. Addison, 160 N.H. 732, 7 A.3d 1225 (2010) (hereinafter, Proportionality Framework ), we set forth the parameters

Page 553

and mechanics of comparative proportionality review under RSA 630:5, XI(c). After reviewing the relevant jurisprudential background and the specific language of RSA 630:5, XI(c), we held that " a death penalty is 'excessive or disproportionate' if it is aberrant from, or substantially out of line with, a pattern of jury verdicts which demonstrate that juries generally do not impose death in similar cases." Proportionality Framework, 160 N.H. at 761. " This appellate monitoring function serves to ensure that defendants will not incur a death sentence that is arbitrary and capricious, or wanton and freakish, in relation to penalties imposed by juries in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant." Id.

We construed the procedural and substantive boundaries of " similar cases" as limited to those cases in which the defendant committed the same kind of capital murder; a separate sentencing hearing occurred; the jury found predicate aggravating factors; and the penalty imposed was either death or life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Id. at 769. As to the mechanics of comparative proportionality review, we adopted a precedent-seeking approach, under which we would examine each case in the inventory of similar cases " considering both the crime and the defendant." Id. at 772 (quotation omitted).

In doing so, we will determine whether a germane jury pattern emerges demonstrating that the defendant's death sentence is excessive or disproportionate; that is, whether juries generally do not impose a death sentence in capital murder cases similar to the defendant's case. This process is not limited to a comparison of the aggravating and mitigating factors between the defendant's case and each case in the inventory, or a calculation of the number of death and life imprisonment verdicts. Rather, we will review the particular facts underlying the substantive characteristics of the case (the nature and circumstances of the capital murder, the aggravating factors, and any mitigating factors). These characteristics found by the jury establish the unique footprint of the case within which the jury considered the particular circumstances of the crime and the character and background of the particular defendant to decide whether to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Id. (citation omitted).

Noting that our ability to conduct comparative proportionality review in this case is complicated by the practical reality that no other defendant has been convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death in this state since the legislature adopted the current death penalty statute in 1977, we concluded that we would consider published opinions from out-of-state cases " to the extent such comparison would be meaningful." Id. at 779. Because the defendant in any comparison case must have killed a law enforcement officer acting in the line of duty, the capital murder case of State v. Brooks is not included in the inventory of similar cases. See State v. Brooks, 164 N.H. 272, 275-76, 56 A.3d 1245 (2012) (defendant ...


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