[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- MASS.
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Thu Dec 30 12:16:04 CST 2004
death penalty news
December 30, 2004
Legislators split on death penalty bill
Area legislators are predicting Gov. Mitt Romney's recently proposed death
penalty bill will have an uphill battle on Beacon Hill next year.
Romney announced Tuesday he plans to file the bill during the upcoming
The bill, Romney said, would limit capital punishment to only the most
heinous of crimes, including the murder of police officers or government
witnesses, and murders involving torture or terrorism.
He said the legislation would rely heavily on DNA evidence to limit the
chance that innocent people will be unjustly executed.
Locally, two prominent legislators have very different opinions on the
moral dilemma and the Romney bill.
State Senate Majority Whip Sen. Joan Menard, D-Fall River, said she opposes
the death penalty in any form.
But state Rep. Phillip Travis, D-Rehoboth, said he will support Romney's
bill when, or if, it ever comes up for a full vote in the House.
Menard said the Senate leadership, of which she is a part, will likely come
down hard against Romney's proposal to reinstitute the death penalty in
"It makes no sense to me to institute the death penalty in our state. I
think it's completely inappropriate for the state to become an executioner
again," Menard said. "There are so many other things we as state leaders
need to focus on next year. The timing of this is very suspect."
But Travis, who is considered by many to be one of the more conservative
members of the state's Democratic Party, said he will fight hard to get
Romney's bill passed.
"With our new sciences like DNA evidence, we can prove innocence or guilt
without a doubt. I support it either way," Travis explained. "It's an
appropriate tool to protect us from criminals. It will also make people
think twice before committing premeditated murder."
Although he supports Romney's death penalty initiative, Travis conceded
that it will be very difficult to get enough votes to pass the legislative
"I think it would pass if there was another heinous murder like we (had) in
1997," Travis said. "It will be an uphill battle, but I am pledging my
support and will debate in favor of it when the time comes."
Travis said the last time a capital punishment bill was filed, it was
soundly defeated. But he said he also remembers that a 1997 capital
punishment bill filed immediately after the horrific murder of 10-year-old
Jeffrey Curley was voted down by a razor-thin two-vote margin.
Both legislators also said it is a moral issue for many who come down on
either side of the hot button issue.
But Travis said, "God doesn't take a stand against the punishment of death.
"Christ was executed," Travis added.
Menard, however, said she is "very confident" that the measure will be shot
down with relative ease.
"It's not going to happen," Menard asserted.
Although he did not take a position on the death penalty being reinstituted
in the Bay State, Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh did
recently question why the governor would want to get embroiled in an issue
that incurs "too many moral and religious implications."
"I have no thoughts on the death penalty push by the governor," Walsh said
in an interview last month. "There are so many other things that need to be
done from a prosecutor's perspective. Before we start executing people, we
have to get better at catching them. Our state crime labs are shoddy at
best, and the medical examiner's office is outdated."
Walsh also noted that the penalty phase of death penalty cases is
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