New Hampshire Denies Pardon Appeal Connected to Murder Case Amidst Death Penalty Repeal

18 January 2024, Hamburg: Sonja Boddin (M), presiding judge, other judges, lawyers and defendants stand in the courtroom before the start of the trial against five defendants for particularly serious breach of the peace during the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg

The Executive Council declined a request for a pardon hearing on Wednesday in a murder case that played a significant role in the successful campaign to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty.

The five-member panel voted unanimously to deny the request from Robert McLaughlin, a Hampton police officer who shot his neighbor, Robert Cushing, to death in 1998, without any discussion.

In 1990, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, receiving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

After his father’s death, the victim’s son, state Rep. Robert “Renny” Cushing, took charge of the campaign to abolish the death penalty, citing how his views against capital punishment grew stronger.

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As the executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, he traveled across the country advocating for victims and against the death penalty.

“If we allow those who commit murder to transform us into murderers, then wickedness prevails and we all suffer,” he stated on March 7, 2019, as his bill was approved by the House, three years before his passing due to cancer and complications from Covid-19.

“That doesn’t help in bringing back our loved ones.” All it does is expand the cycle of violence. Lawmakers later overturned a veto from Gov. Chris Sununu to pass the repeal.

McLaughlin had been a patrolman for 18 years when he fatally shot the elder Cushing due to a long-standing grudge. During the trial, McLaughlin confessed to shooting Cushing but claimed he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

He claimed to be experiencing depression and panic attacks, and on the night of the shooting, he had consumed alcohol and the prescription drug Xanax, a sedative.

Following unsuccessful attempts at the state level, he turned to federal court, arguing that his conviction could have been avoided if the jurors were aware of his use of contentious sleeping pills.

The judge dismissed the argument, stating that the case was not proven on multiple fronts.

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