Month: November 2012

US – UPCOMING EXECUTIONS – DECEMBER 2012


November 17, 2012 

Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

December
12.04.12 George Ochoa Oklahoma  executed
12.11.2012 Roy Ward Indiana Stay likely
 12.11.2012 Manuel Pardo Florida  executed
 12.12.2012 Rigoberto Avila  Texas Changed to 4/10/2013
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Texas AG: New tests don’t clear death row inmate – HANK SKINNER


November 14, 2012

New DNA testing in the case of a Texas Panhandle man on death row for a New Year’s Eve triple-slaying doesn’t support an alternate theory of the crime, the state attorney general’s office said Wednesday.

Hank Skinner once came within an hour of execution for the 1993 killings of girlfriend Twila Busby and her two grown sons in Pampa, about 50 miles northeast of Amarillo. Now 50, Skinner’s execution has been stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Both his attorney and prosecutors agreed in June to new DNA testing of evidence.

The attorney general’s office filed a court advisory Wednesday that says new testing “does not support Skinner’s claim that an alternative suspect is the real killer.”

Skinner has argued he wasn’t the killer because he was passed out on a couch from a mix of vodka and codeine. The AG’s advisory says traces of Skinner’s DNA were located in blood in the bedroom where one of Busby’s sons, Randy Busby, was found stabbed to death. Prosecutors said his DNA also was matched to blood stains throughout the house.

Skinner attorney Rob Owen objected to Wednesday’s advisory, calling its findings premature. In a statement, Owen said it was “troubling” that the AG’s office submitted a report while testing was still ongoing. The AG’s office says both sides are discussing whether to conduct more tests.

We will remain unable to draw any strong conclusions about whether the DNA testing has resolved the stubborn questions about Hank Skinner’s guilt or innocence until additional DNA testing has been completed, and the data underlying that DNA testing has been made available to our experts for a detailed review,” Owen said in the statement.

While Skinner’s DNA was found on the handle of a bloody knife on Twila Busby’s front porch, Owen said the handle also had genetic material from two other people: Busby’s other slain son, Elwin Caler, and a third person other than Skinner or the victims. Owen said an unknown person’s DNA also was found on the carpet of the sons’ bedroom.

Skinner has acknowledged he argued with Busby on the night she was killed and that he was inside the house where the victim’s bodies were found. He was found about three hours after the bodies were discovered, hiding in a closet at the home of a woman he knew. Blood from at least two of the victims was found on him.

The attorney general’s office had argued against DNA testing, which Skinner’s trial attorneys did not request, but changed course. The state agreed to allow testing of a list of 40 items, though not a windbreaker jacket Skinner’s advocates consider crucial to establishing an alternate suspect’s guilt.

Utah’s death penalty costs $1.6M more per inmate


November 15, 2012 http://www.sltrib.com

Craig Watson said he didn’t know if “closure” was the proper word.

But as he witnessed the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed Watson’s cousin Melvyn J. Otterstrom at a bar in 1984, a feeling of peace came over him: It was, finally, over.

As Utah lawmakers weigh the cost of executing men like Gardner versus keeping them in prison for life, Watson asked them on Wednesday to remember there are some things that no amount of money can touch — a message also shared by Barbara Noriega, whose mother and sister were killed by another man now on Utah’s death row.

“With the death sentence, there are no recurring offenders and we can go on with our lives,” Watson said, his voice breaking at times as he addressed the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, asked for the analysis, the first study to examine what the capital punishment option costs the state and local governments. Handy has not proposed any legislation and said Wednesday he is “under no illusion that people in Utah want to change the present law.” But Handy said the comparative costs of life without parole and the death penalty — which a legislative fiscal analyst pegged “unofficially” at an added $1.6 million per inmate from trial to execution — should be understood.

“Which direction citizens of Utah choose to go remains to be seen,” Handy told the committee.

It is a topic of discussion in other states as well. New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut all did away with the option in recent years. A year ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions and ordered a review of that state’s capital punishment law. On Nov. 6, voters in California, where more than 700 inmates sit on death row, rejected a proposition that would have repealed the state’s death penalty; proponents argued for doing away with the option based on its costs.

Lawmakers may get some insight into Utahns’ views of capital punishment from a survey being conducted by students at Utah Valley University under the direction of Sandy McGunigall-Smith, an associate professor of legal studies. The survey will be sent to 6,000 people randomly selected in Ogden, West Valley City, Kamas, Saratoga Springs, Alpine and Taylorsville.

Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general, said the state has two policy interests in supporting capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. Gardner’s case illustrated a “special” interest in assuring a condemned person could not kill again, he said, while the heinous nature of the crimes committed by other Utah death row inmates highlighted society’s “right” to exact retribution.

Ralph Dellapiana, a defense attorney and death penalty project director for Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the cost estimates fall short of capturing the full expense of the dozen or so aggravated murder cases filed each year in which the death penalty is an option. Such cases require thousands of hours of extensive, multi-generational social histories of the offender, for example, costs that would not be incurred if the penalty were replaced with a life without parole alternative. The cost analysis also doesn’t include expenses incurred in cases that are prosecuted as capital offenses but that end up in plea deals or acquittals, as occurred recently with Curtis Allgier, who shot and killed corrections officer Stephen Anderson during a 2007 escape attempt.

Without the death penalty, there would be faster closure for victims’ families, he added.

And for offenders’ families.

Peggy Ostler described the pain and emotional roller coaster her parents have experienced over the more than two decades that their adopted son, Michael Archuleta, has spent on death row. Archuleta tortured, raped and murdered Gordon Ray Church, 28, in 1988. The crime was terrible, she said, and life in prison would be appropriate, but facing their son’s execution would be the “final blow” to her parents, who oppose the death penalty.

Watson agreed the legal process is too lengthy and often painful, an argument for streamlining rather than doing away with the death penalty.

For more than two decades, as they waited for justice to be carried out, Watson said he and other relatives had every “stupid” move Gardner shoved in their faces — among them, feigned illnesses and escape attempts, including one at a courthouse in 1985 where Gardner fatally shotattorney Michael Burdell and wounded bailiff Nick Kirk.

“We got to hear about it, we got to see it, we got to relive it,” said Watson, a 37-year veteran law enforcement officer.

Since Gardner’s execution, Otterstrom’s widow and son have finally been able to move on with their lives, he said.

“In my opinion, there isn’t enough money to make a difference,” Watson said.

Noriega placed framed photos of her mother Kaye Tiede, 51, and grandmother Beth Harmon Tidwell Potts, 72, on the table before her as she addressed lawmakers. Tiede had survived two husbands, both killed in automobile accidents, before marrying Rolf Tiede, Noriega said. The two built a cabin, which they called “Tiede’s Tranquility,” in Oakley as a family get-away and where they planned to spend Christmas in 1990.

Von Lester Taylor and Edward Steven Deli, who had escaped from a halfway house, broke into the cabin on Dec. 22, opened presents and waited for the family to return. Tiede, another daughter and Potts arrived first; the two women were shot and the daughter bound and gagged. Rolf Tiede and another daughter arrived next; he was shot and played dead as the two men set the cabin on fire and took off on snowmobiles with the younger daughters. Despite his injuries, Rolf Tiede managed to get help, and Taylor and Deli were captured.

Deli received a life sentence, while Taylor, identified as the shooter, was sentenced to death.

“There is no doubt that these savages did this to my family,” Noriega said, calling the 22 years of legal wrangling that has followed “shocking, a travesty.”

“It might be a lot of things, but it is not justice,” Noriega said.

The family, once so wary of danger and crime, has had to confront evil and personal responsibility in “ways I never imagined,” she added. “Our family feels the death penalty actually represents a reverence for the sanctity of the lives of the innocent.

 

TEXAS – EXECUTION TODAY – PRESTON HUGHES – EXECUTED 7.52 p.m


The condemned prisoner’s mother sobbed and wailed as she witnessed the lethal injection. Hughes’ sister was at her side.

“You know I’m innocent and I love you both,” Hughes, 46, said as his mother cried loudly.

“Please continue to fight for my innocence even though I’m gone.

“Give everybody my love.”

He took several deep breaths and then stopped moving. His mother, seated in a chair near the death chamber window, cried out: “My baby … I haven’t touched my child in 23 years.”

Hughes was pronounced dead at 7:52 p.m. local time, 15 minutes after the lethal drug began flowing into his arms. No one representing his victims witnessed the punishment.

Hughes became the 15th Texas prisoner executed this year and the second in as many nights.

http://www.theprovince.com

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop tonight’s scheduled execution

November 16, 2012 http://www.austinchronicle.com

 

At press time, the state was readying to carry out the Nov. 15 execution of Preston Hughes III, set to become the 15th inmate executed this year and the 492nd inmate executed since reinstatement of the death penalty. Hughes was sentenced to death for the 1988 double murder of 15-year-old LaShandra Charles and her 3-year-old cousin, Marcell Taylor, who were found stabbed to death on a weed-choked trail behind a Fuddruckers in far West Houston (see “Framing the Guilty?,” Nov. 2). Although Charles’ carotid artery and jugular were severed, the first HPD detective arriving at the scene later claimed that Charles was awake and able to talk – and to tell him that she knew her attacker, whose name was Preston. Police quickly moved to a nearby apartment complex, where they found Hughes. Police say they found evidence in his apartment that matched the crime, including a pair of fashion glasses that Charles had been known to wear as an accessory.

Hughes’ appeals have been unsuccessful despite a plethora of evidence that suggests either that he is the wrong man, or that he was framed by police despite being guilty: Evidence records reflect that police logged evidence into custody several hours before they had permission to search Hughes’ apartment. Notably, the glasses that police considered a direct link between Charles and Hughes were not on the evidence list; Hughes’ attorney and supporters believe they were planted in the apartment some time in the hours after Charles was discovered. Moreover, when asked by the Chronicle this fall to review the autopsy evidence, Tarrant County Deputy Medical Examiner Lloyd White concluded that it would have been medically impossible for Charles to have been conscious and talking after sustaining such a fatal injury.

Hughes‘ attorney Pat McCann has filed several recent appeals – including one that raises the question of police having planted evidence – each of which has been denied. Meanwhile, California-based blogger John Allen, known online as the Skeptical Juror (www.skepticaljuror.com), has helped Hughes to file a flurry of pro se writs; each of those also has been denied, clearing the way for Hughes’ execution this evening, Thursday, Nov. 15.

Death penalty upheld for man in Las Vegas hammer killings – Thomas Richardson


November 14, 2012 http://www.lasvegassun.com

ARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, has upheld the murder conviction and death penalty sentence for Thomas Richardson in the hammer slaying and robbery of two people in Las Vegas.

Richardson and Robert Dehnart agreed in September 2005 to rob and murder Steve Folker, who was at the home of Estelle Feldman, also killed with hammer blows to the head, records show.

Dehnart, who was the 18-year old son of Richardson’s girlfriend, agreed to testify against Richardson as part of a plea deal. He was sentenced to 20 to 50 years for first-degree murder and a consecutive 4 to 30 year term for robbery.

Chief Justice Michael Cherry dissented in the ruling, saying evidence against Richardson “was not overwhelming” and errors at trial required the conviction be overturned and a new trial ordered. Justice Nancy Saitta agreed with Cherry.

Richardson maintained he was in California at the time of the murders.

But the court’s majority opinion said the trial testimony of Dehnart “is sufficiently corroborated,” and substantial evidence supports the jury verdict.

The court said District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt was wrong in not permitting the defense in closing arguments to maintain Dehnart was lying to receive a lighter sentence.

But the court called it harmless error.

Cherry, in his dissent, said defense attorneys should have been allowed to argue that Richardson had returned to California before the time of the murder.

“As there was conflicting evidence of this crucial fact and no physical evidence placing Richardson in the home or even in the state at the time of the murders, (defense) counsel’s argument became much more vital to the defense,” Cherry wrote.

Cherry also wrote that evidence at the crime scene was mishandled, and a replica of the hammer used in the killing should not have been introduced at the trial.

Justice is debatable in Texas death penalty case – Larry Swearingen


November 12,2012 http://www.dw.de

Larry Swearingen faces imminent execution in Texas for a crime that forensic scientists say he could not have committed. His time is running out.

Larry Swearingen at the visitors center on Death Row (Allen B. Polunksy Unit, Texas)

In his 12 years on death row, Larry Swearingen’s execution date has been set three times. Three times he has known when he will be strapped to a stretcher and put down with drugs: sodium thiobarbital to anesthetize him, pancurium bromide to paralyze his muscles and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

In January 2009, he had written his goodbyes and was on his way to the chamber when the stay of execution came through. “The way I had to look at it was ‘I’m just gonna lay down and go to sleep,'” he said. “I wasn’t gonna grovel. I wasn’t gonna sit there and cry. I can’t be remorseful for a crime I didn’t commit.”

Swearingen lives at the Allan B. Polunsky unit, an hour or so north of Houston, together with around 300 men and women awaiting execution for capital crimes committed in Texas. He is kept in solitary confinement 24 hours a day, in a cell not quite four meters long (13 feet) and a little over two meters wide, with a slit above head height, more a vent than a window.

Swearingen is strikingly calm, his voice rarely rising, even as he complains about the injustice of being locked up for a murder that forensic science shows he cannot have committed. “It’s not easy being here,” he says. “There are men who are hanging themselves, men who are cutting themselves, men sitting in their own feces, men slowly losing their minds. If people think it’s easy they are sadly mistaken.”

supporters of the death penalty argue that the USA’s appeals system is so thorough that no innocent person has ever been executed.

In recent years, that faith has been shaken by a number of high-profile cases. Todd Willingham was executed in Texas for setting the house fire that killed his two young daughters, despite several of the country’s most prominent arson investigators testifying that the blaze almost certainly started by accident. Troy Davis went to the chamber in Georgia for shooting a policeman, despite a lack of DNA evidence and seven out of the nine prosecution witnesses later changing their stories.

Swearingen’s case is different, in that forensic science provides him with an alibi: He cannot have raped and murdered his supposed victim, because he was already in prison when she was killed.

Open-and-shut case?

Melissa Trotter disappeared on December 8, 1998. Swearingen was one of the last people to see her alive, at Montgomery College. Three days later police picked him up on outstanding arrest warrants for minor offences, put him in jail and began to build a case against him.

Trotter’s body was discovered on January 2, 1999, in the Sam Houston National Forest, by hunters looking for a lost gun. At first glance, they thought it was a mannequin, dumped in the woods. She was wearing jeans, but her torso was naked. She had been strangled with one leg of a pair of tights. A search team, with cadaver dogs, had passed within 20 meters of the spot a fortnight earlier and found nothing.

At the autopsy, with the district attorney and two of his sheriffs in the room, Harris County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Joye Carter, estimated that she had been dead for around 25 days, which meant she had been killed the day she went missing.

When Carter repeated this at the trial, the defense team let it pass unchallenged. Jurors heard that Swearingen had a history of violence towards women, that he had repeatedly lied to police, that hairs forcibly removed from Trotter’s head were recovered from his truck and that the other leg of the pair of tights used to kill her was found in his house.

They were not told that the tights appeared during a fourth police visit to the property, after three prior searches had turned up nothing. The DNA under Trotter’s fingernails, belonging to somebody other than Swearingen, was dismissed as a contaminant – perhaps a drop of blood from a cut in a forensic technician’s hand.

The jury took less than two hours to find Swearingen guilty.

Science vs. the courts

Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, chief medical examiner for nearby Galveston County, says the autopsy results aren’t credible. Although there were signs of decomposition around Trotter’s head, her corpse was in remarkably good condition.

For many days, where she was found, it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit [22 degrees Celsius],” he said. “If you’re at that temperature for three days, you’re green, bloated and stinky. Her internal organs look beautiful.”

At the morgue, her heart, liver, lungs and spleen were remarkably intact.

Pustilnik said the body could not have been dead for 25 days. Several other forensic scientists called by the defense team have come to the same conclusion. It means that Swearingen could not have killed Trotter, because he was already in jail when she died.

Final hearing

I returned to Montgomery County for Swearingen’s final evidentiary hearing. The case has been going back and forth between Judge Fred Edwards and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) for years: Each time, Edwards has upheld Swearingen’s conviction and each time the appeals court has granted the defense one more hearing. This was categorically his last.

Swearingen sat with his defense team, feet shackled together, wearing a striped Montgomery County Jail jumpsuit. In the pews on the right, behind the district attorney’s table, Sandy and Charlie Trotter were surrounded by supporters holding pictures of Melissa. They are convinced Swearingen is guilty and need him to be gone, so they can grieve in peace. Sandy handed me a photograph of her daughter, but was too upset to talk.

The benches on the left were empty, apart from a couple of local newspaper reporters and a frail-looking woman taking notes. Pam Martinez, Swearingen’s mother, attended every day of the hearing, even though she had recently had heart surgery for the second time.

“My cardiologist tells me that I need to cut the stress out,” she said. “I would like to cut the stress, but I support my son. He’s my child and I want to protect him.”

‘Innocence doesn’t matter’

This time, too, Judge Edward upheld the conviction. Now the case goes back to the TCCA. If the panel again upholds Swearingen’s conviction, he will have run out of options. His “actual innocence” petition to the Supreme Court has been denied. Any further appeals will be summarily rejected. A new execution date will be set and, barring an unprecedented last-minute pardon, he will be taken to the execution chamber at Huntsville and put down.Swearingen knows his chances are slim. “Under federal law in the United States being innocent does not matter,” he said. “If being innocent makes no difference, this country is no better than Iran or Syria, these third-world countries that kill their own citizens. How can being innocent not matter?”

The TCCA’s ruling is expected in the coming months.

PENNSYLVANIA – Governor signs execution warrant for Clearfield County man. Mark Newton Spotz


November 13,2012 http://triblive.com

Gov. Tom Corbett signed an execution warrant on Tuesday for a Clearfield County man convicted of kidnapping and robbing a woman who was slain during a four-county killing spree in 1995.

Mark Newton Spotz received the death penalty for killing three women — including Penny Gunnet, 41, of York County — in Clearfield, Schuylkill, York and Dauphin counties. His execution is scheduled for Jan. 8.

The slayings began on Jan. 31 when Spotz fatally shot his brother, Dustin, during a fight at the family home.

Gunnet, the third person to die, was on her way home from work on Feb. 2 when she stopped her car at an intersection in York. Spotz, armed with a gun, forced his way into the car and drove around before shooting Gunnet twice at close range. He abandoned her and the car.

After killing another woman that day, Spotz drove around the Carlisle area, picked up friends, bought drugs and went to a motel. There, he bragged about how he killed his brother and “these other women,” a Corbett spokeswoman said.

Gov. Ed Rendell declined a Vatican request in 2003 to commute Spotz’s death sentence because he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Christian counseling while in prison and helped develop programs to guide young people in avoiding violent crime.

Death Row exoneree Randy Steidl
 to speak Nov. 27 at NKU


November 13, 2012 http://www.lanereport.com

 

As part of the Journey of Hope Tour sponsored by the Northern Kentucky University Chase American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, NKU will host a free public lecture by death row exoneree Randy Steidl on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at noon in room 302 of the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.

Steidl and a co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.

The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.

It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Steidl’s innocence to call for a new trial. Eventually, all charges were dropped and Steidl became the 18th person to be released from the Illinois death row because of a wrongful conviction.

Steidl described his ordeal in a CNN interview. “Torture,” he said. “Actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wants to kill me for something I did not do.”

His NKU visit comes just weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report alleging serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.

‘I never killed anyone’: Death Row inmate scheduled to die Thursday offers medical proof police lied about key evidence


November 13,2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk

A death row inmate set to die Thursday is pinning his final hopes on convincing people that his victim’s dying words never happened.

When police found La Shandra Charles bleeding from neck wounds in a west Houston filed in 1988, they claimed she whispered the name of her assailant, ‘Preston,’ before dying. 

That evidence, along with the police assertion that the girl said her attacker lived nearby, were key bits of evidence in convicting Preston Hughes 11, a New York-born warehouse worker.

But Hughes attorney now says it would be medically impossible for the girl to tell police anything about her attacker and he’s got medical testimony to prove it, the Houston Chronicle reports.

‘It is simply not medically feasible that this young woman, particularly given the fact that one’s heart rate accelerates during stress, and thus blood loss occurs more rapidly, could have spoken to the officers as they claimed,’ wrote Dr. Robert White, Dr. Robert White, who was chief medical examiner in Nueces County before joining the Fort Worth forensics department.

Defense attorney Pat McCann said it would take roughly 13 minutes for police to reach Charles after she was injured, a time frame that does not allow her to be conscious by the time authorities found her with the wounds she sustained.

Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hardaway has brushed aside McCann’s argument: ‘That’s obviously this guy’s opinion.’

Hardaway further noted that in the original police report an unnamed medical technician is supposed to have heard the dying girl’s accusation.

But the technician never testified. 

A state pardons board is to review Hughe’s request to have his sentence commuted Tuesday.

Hughes, 46, was convicted of the murders of both Charles and her cousin, Marcel Taylor, 3, who was also stabbed.

At the time of his arrest, Hughes was on probation for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, though he maintained innocence in that crime as well.

After his in the 1988 case, he offered two confessions to police but they contained contradictory statements.

In an interview at the time, he said the police didn’t type what he said.

He claimed that on the night of the murder he met with friends for drinks.

When he returned home he took his dog for a walk, crossing the field where the children were murdered.

He then went back to his apartment where he stayed until police knocked on his door.

‘I didn’t hear or see anything,’ he said. ‘I never killed anyone.

Daylong hearing set in death sentence appeal – Michael Addison


November 13, 2012 http://bostonglobe.com

The state’s only death-row inmate will have his day in court — all day — when the New Hampshire Supreme Court hears arguments pertaining to his sentence.

Michael Addison was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a 35-year-old Manchester police officer, Michael Briggs, in 2006, when Briggs tried to arrest him on robbery charges.

The justices in Addison’s case will be deliberating the death penalty for the first time in more than 50 years — deciding, among other things, whether Addison’s sentence is just or was a product of passion or prejudice.

The justices will hear arguments in the case beginning Wednesday morning, holding four blocks of hearings that are scheduled to end at 3 p.m.

Court observers say the daylong hearing on Addison’s conviction and death sentence is unprecedented. A typical hearing before the justices lasts half an hour.

If his sentence is upheld and carried out, Addison — now 32 — would be the first convict executed in New Hampshire since 1939.

Former chief justice John Broderick, now dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said the court, on occasion, has granted more time for arguments.

‘‘But an entire day? I don’t know of another case where that’s happened,’’ Broderick said.

Attorneys for Addison have raised 22 issues, with everything from the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty statute to the political ambitions of Kelly Ayotte, a former attorney general and current US senator, in their appeal.

Addison’s lawyers want the court to vacate his death sentence and order a new sentencing hearing. They stress that jurors determined Addison shot Briggs to evade arrest, but rejected the state’s argument that he shot Briggs with the intention of killing him.

Before Addison’s case could reach this point, the state Supreme Court first had to fashion the method it would use in weighing the fairness of his death penalty.

Addison’s lawyers argued his case should be compared with all other death penalty cases in this state and others, to test whether racial bias or other factors influenced his sentence. Addison is black; Briggs was white.

The only other New Hampshire capital case in decades to reach the penalty phase was that of John Brooks, who was convicted of plotting and paying for the killing of a handyman he suspected of stealing from him. A jury spared him a death sentence in 2008 — the same year Addison was sentenced to die.

But the court ruled in October 2010 that it would compare his death sentence with cases ­nationwide in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty.

The court stressed, in its 41-page ruling, that comparison cases do not have to precisely mirror the details of Addison’s case.

‘‘Ultimately, no two capital murder defendants are alike,’’ the ruling states. ‘‘Perfect symmetry and uniform consistency are not possible under a statutory scheme that requires juries to make individualized sentencing decisions based upon the unique circumstances of a case, given the nature of the crime and the character and background of the defendant.’’