Former Boston gang member Michael Addison was sentenced to death yesterday for killing a Manchester, New Hampshire police officer. In October of 2006 Officer Michael Briggs and his partner confronted Addison who was suspected in a shooting and a couple of armed robberies. In order to avoid apprehension Addison shot Briggs in the head and fled. The death penalty phase of the trial followed the murder conviction after a 9 week jury trial. It marked the first time in 49 years that a New Hampshire jury issued a death sentence. The last execution in New Hampshire was in 1939. If the death sentence is upheld Addison will die by lethal injection.
Fighting against the death penalty Addison’s lawyers showed that he had a troubled childhood and likely sustained brain damage as a result of his teenage mother’s alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy. Evidence showed that Addison had been abandoned by his parents and raised by his maternal grandmother. When he was 16 Addison was taken into custody by the Department of Youth Services after a failed attempt to shoot a student outside a Dorchester high school. He was convicted later of stabbing a man and stealing his hat. The prosecution on the other hand portrayed Addison as the former leader of a violent Boston street gang.
Several politicians weighed in on the verdict. Governor John Lynch issued a statement affirming his belief in the death penalty. He also stated that he “believe[s] this was a just verdict.” A Portsmouth state representative vowed to file anti death penalty legislation. Such legislation was passed by the legislature in 2000 only to be vetoed by the governor. Boston Globe, December 19, 2008, Shelley Murphy.
Currently there is no death penalty in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1975 the Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. O’Neal, 367 Mass. 440 (O’Neal I). In that case the Court focused on the defendant’s right to Due Process and held that “the right to life is a fundamental constitutional right, that due process of law requires that the burden be on the State to demonstrate a compelling State interest served by the mandatory death penalty and absence of any less restrictive means of furthering such interest”. The Court in O’Neal I requested that this matter be briefed on this one issue. A few months later in Commonwealth v. O’Neal II, 369 Mass. 242 (1975) the Court ultimately held that the Commonwealth had not provided adequate justification for capital punishment, and the statute thus violated both the due process and the prohibition of cruel or unusual punishment provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution. This remains the state of the law today notwithstanding approximately seven gubernatorial and/or legislative attempts to re-institute a death penalty law.
Our office is unequivocally opposed to the death penalty and would expend all available resources available to defend anyone who is subject to a capital prosecution. We have defended people accused of violent crimes in Massachusetts and throughout the country for over 20 years. Contact our office now to discuss your case and to learn more about our services.