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New Hampshire lawmakers fail to pass death penalty repeal

BOSTON (Reuters) - New Hampshire's Senate failed to repeal the death penalty on Thursday, in a vote that capped weeks of emotional debate while focusing attention on the state's lone death row inmate.

The Senate deadlocked 12 to 12 on a bill to abolish capital punishment, meaning it did not pass. New Hampshire's House had earlier passed the bill, and first-term Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had said she would sign it.

New Hampshire would have been the 19th state to scrap the death penalty under rising pressure from activists who contend that execution does not reduce crime and that innocent people are sometimes put to death.

Proponents argue the death penalty deters crime and provides relief for victims and their families.

The repeal would not have been retroactive. But the debate focused attention on Michael Addison, 33, who became New Hampshire's only death row inmate in 2008 for fatally shooting a policeman.

New Hampshire's top court in November dismissed an appeal by Addison's attorneys seeking a mistrial, but said it was still reviewing whether the death sentence was appropriate in his case. New Hampshire has not executed a prisoner since 1939.

A Gallup poll released in October showed 60 percent of Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, the lowest percentage since 1972, and down from a peak of 80 percent in the mid-1990s. http://www.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx

There have been 17 executions in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks capital punishment.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Tom Brown)

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