MANCHESTER, N.H. A man authorities were seeking after a series of shootings and armed robberies was convicted Thursday of capital murder for killing a police officer in a case that could result in New Hampshire s first execution in nearly 70 years.
Michael Addison, 28, showed no emotion as he was convicted of capital murder in the 2006 death of 35-year-old Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs. The jury deliberated over the course of three days and delivered the verdict as the officer s widow and two young sons sat in the courtroom.
Many police officers in court burst into tears or sighed in relief when they heard the verdict. Officer Briggs wife, Laura, smiled after the jurors left and hugged prosecutors.
Defense lawyers conceded that Addison shot Officer Briggs, but they argued for second-degree murder, saying he acted recklessly, not knowingly. Prosecutors countered that Addison knew the police were after him and had told friends he would pop a cop if necessary to avoid arrest.
Addison s lawyers left court without commenting.
Jurors must now sentence Addison to death or life in prison; the penalty phase of the trial begins Monday. The case is the second recent one to raise the possibility of an execution in a state that hasn t seen one since 1939.
New Hampshire s first capital murder verdict since 1959 came last month in the murder-for-hire case of millionaire John Brooks. A jury last week spared Brooks the death penalty and decided to send him to prison for life with no chance for parole.
In closing arguments Monday in Addison s trial, defense lawyer Caroline Smith said the jury should convict him of second-degree murder.
He did not think, she said. He acted, and he ran.
Asecond-degree murder conviction, punishable by up to life in prison, would not diminish the tragedy of Mr. Briggs death, she said.
Prosecutor Will Delker argued that Addison s statements and actions before, during, and after the shooting show he intended to kill.
This crime didn t happen in an instant like the defense wants you to believe, he said. The murder was just the final, fatal decision ... in a series of choices he made along the way.
The prosecution opened the trial with emotional testimony from police officers who were at the scene. Officer Briggs bicycle patrol partner, Officer John Breckinridge, choked up on the stand as he recalled seeing Mr. Briggs fall after being shot.
Police were looking for Addison and a friend because they were suspects in a series of recent shootings and armed robberies. They found the pair in an alley early on Oct. 16, 2006. Police testified that Officer Briggs told them to stop three times before he was shot.
Prosecutors produced witnesses who said Addison threatened to use violence if he encountered the police, including saying he would pop a cop. Challenged by the defense, many admitted lying to police when they were first interviewed, and some acknowledged striking deals with the state in exchange for their testimony.
The defense called five witnesses, all police officers, to rebut earlier testimony.
At the time of his arrest, Addison was described in court documents as an unemployed father of two children, ages 2 and 8.
In 2004, a federal judge in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty, designated New Hampshire as the site for the execution of a man convicted of a two-state killing rampage in 2001. Gary Sampson, a drifter from Abington, Mass., is in a federal prison in Indiana while his case is on appeal.