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Death sentence is N.H.'s first since 1959

Michael Addison killed Officer Michael Briggs two years ago while trying to avoid arrest.

MANCHESTER, N.H. - A jury issued New Hampshire's first death sentence in a half century yesterday to a man who fatally shot a Manchester police officer to avoid arrest two years ago.

Lawyers for Michael Addison 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 with him.

Prosecutors stressed Addison's record of violence, including a crime spree a week before Officer Michael Briggs was shot in the head, and noted that Addison had said he would "pop a cop" if necessary.

Addison, 28, had no reaction as the Hillsborough County Superior Court jury announced its verdict after 13 hours of deliberation over four days. The state Supreme Court will automatically review the conviction and sentence. The defense said it will appeal.

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 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment for a time in the 1970s.

Briggs' wife, two young sons and parents attended Addison's sentencing. His father, Leland Briggs, said he hopes the verdict will help protect other police officers.

"This is what we wanted. This is what we got," said Briggs, himself a former police officer.

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

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 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.

The defense admitted on the first day of the trial that Addison killed Briggs, but defense attorney David Rothstein said the act was "totally unplanned" and "reckless."

Prosecutors called the shooting premeditated.