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State judge issues first death penalty in 49 years

A judge has issued New Hampshire's first death sentence in half a century for a man who fatally shot a Manchester police officer two years ago.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge issued New Hampshire’s first death sentence in nearly 50 years to a man who gunned down a police officer in 2006 and refused to look his victim’s relatives in the eye as they addressed him in court Monday.

The death sentence for Michael Addison was mandatory under state law after being ordered Thursday by a Hillsborough County Superior Court jury.

“Your name will never be uttered from my lips again,” Maryann Briggs, mother of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs, told Addison, 28.

“You and only you are to blame for the sentence you received. I will not look back and feel anything for you except justice was done,” she said.

Addison, a former Boston gang member with a long criminal record, would not look at Briggs even when Judge Kathleen McGuire told him to.

“You sit there and don’t even look at us because you’re a coward. You can’t even look at us, see,” Michael Briggs’ sister Tracie Davison said. “I hate you, Michael Addison.”

Police were looking for Addison and another man in connection with a weeklong crime spree when Briggs, 35, and his bicycle partner came across both of them in an alley early on Oct. 16, 2006. They recognized the men as suspects 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, noting that he had told friends he would “pop a cop” if necessary to avoid arrest.

The defense admitted on the first day of the trial that Addison killed Briggs. They had sought a life sentence, arguing that he acted recklessly, not intentionally, and suffered from an abusive childhood and possible brain damage from his mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant.

New Hampshire’s last execution was in 1939. Two men were sentenced to death in 1959 but were spared when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment for a time in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty, in 2004 ordered convicted killer Gary Sampson executed in New Hampshire. Sampson is being held in Indiana while his case is appealed.

Michael Briggs’ parents, his three sisters, his wife and two sons and about 30 police officers were among those at Monday’s sentencing. No one from Addison’s family attended.

McGuire also sentenced Addison on Monday for the crimes that preceded the murder, including two armed robberies and a shooting at an apartment complex. He received: 32½ to 63 years in prison for two armed robberies, being a felon in possession of a weapon, conspiracy and reckless conduct.

A state Supreme Court review of the murder conviction and sentence is automatic, and Addison’s lawyers say they will appeal on grounds including the judge’s refusal to move the trial to another location.

Race also could be an issue in the appeal. In June, McGuire rejected the defense’s claim that racial prejudice would prevent Addison, who is black, from getting a fair trial in predominantly white New Hampshire.