[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MASS., IOWA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 29 00:26:33 CDT 2005
Romney files bill to bring back capital punishment
Gov. Mitt Romney filed a bill Thursday that would bring back capital
punishment for people convicted of terrorism, multiple murders and killing
law enforcement officers, using conclusive scientific evidence to ensure
only the guilty are executed.
The Republican governor called the proposal the "gold standard for the
death penalty in the modern scientific age."
Massachusetts is one of a dozen states without capital punishment, and the
state last executed someone in 1947. Several recent efforts to reinstate
it have failed, and any death penalty bill faces a tough battle in the
But Romney said his bill should help alleviate the reservations of some
lawmakers who were concerned the death penalty would be applied too
broadly or that evidence standards weren't high enough or proper
safeguards in place. He said his bill answers those concerns.
"We believe that the capital punishment bill that we put forward is not
only right for Massachusetts, but it's a model for the nation," Romney
said at a news conference. "The message that we're trying to send to the
people of Massachusetts who think about crime is very clear. If you commit
a heinous crime of this nature, the ultimate price will have to be paid by
Romney also said there was no doubt in his mind that the death penalty is
a deterrent and could save lives by preventing crimes.
Opponents of capital punishment said it's impossible to craft a foolproof
death penalty, citing Illinois, which emptied its death row in 2003 after
several inmates were found to be innocent.
The governor's bill would limit capital punishment to the "worst of the
worst" crimes including terrorism, the murder of police officers, murder
involving torture and the killing of witnesses. The bill specifies lethal
injection as the method of execution.
It includes a series of safeguards he says will prevent the innocent,
including a requirement that physical evidence, such as DNA, directly
links the defendant to the crime scene.
The bill also mandates an additional review of that evidence before a
death sentence is imposed, and every death penalty case would have
separate juries for the trial and sentencing. Every case would
automatically be reviewed by the state's highest court, and a commission
would be created to review complaints and investigate errors.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey said torture is defined as the infliction of pain
over an extended time while the victim is conscious. She said that
definition could apply to a rape that preceded a murder.
State Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, helped investigate or prosecute 25
murder cases as an assistant district attorney before being elected to the
House. He said Romney is overstating the foolproof nature of DNA evidence.
"The thought that DNA evidence is a panacea is completely and 100 % wrong.
Under the governor's bill innocent people can still be put to death," he
said. "DNA evidence is only as good at the human being who is collecting
evidence or who is analyzing the evidence."
Critics said the millions of dollars it could cost to prosecute death
penalty cases would be better spent on fighting crime and law enforcement.
They also disputed the notion that the death penalty is a deterrent. They
pointed to the case of a Georgia man, Brian Nichols, 33, accused of
overpowering a court deputy in March, taking her gun and fatally shooting
3 people, including the judge on his rape case.
"Georgia is a death penalty state," said state Rep. Michael Festa,
D-Melrose. "The man who committed that crime was not deterred at all by
the death penalty."
Romney filed his bill nearly a year after a panel he appointed released
its recommendations on how to craft foolproof death penalty legislation.
But even he has conceded that it might take another horrific crime, like
the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, to rally support for the
bill among skeptical members of the House and Senate.
Curley was abducted from a Cambridge street and killed by 2 men who later
got life sentences. Public outrage fueled calls for a death penalty bill
that passed easily in the state Senate. But foes defeated it by a single
vote in the House.
Since then the margin has grown in the House, which defeated another death
penalty bill two years later by 80-73 margin.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston, has voted against the death
penalty in the past. A spokeswoman said his position hasn't changed. A
spokesowoman for Senate President Robert Travaglini, D-Boston, said he is
also opposed to the death penalty but will allow it to go through the
State Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, a member of DiMasi's leadership team,
promised the bill would get a full hearing before a legislative committee
and would come up for a vote on the floor of the House.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty should be discussed at later date -- It wouldn't be the
first time the rules have been used to push a point.
But whether you think he was playing politics or simply following
procedure, Senate Co-president Jack Kibbie's quash of debate over the
death penalty was the right thing to do.
The murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids, allegedly by a
convicted sex offender, is still strong in the public's mind. It's
understandable that a lawmaker such as Larry McKibben, R-Marshalltown,
would raise the issue. Legislators have not debated the death penalty in
Iowa in a decade. Events of the day bring the discussion to the fore.
But the time to decide is later, when the emotion has subsided. Then, cool
heads can prevail. The many issues the death penalty invokes - justice,
deterrence, economics and the value of human life - must be calmly and
thoroughly considered. Right now, all we know is retribution.
The interjection of politics in this particular debate bolsters the case
for delay. Democrats accuse McKibben of grandstanding, even exploiting the
Gage case. Now Republicans accuse Kibbie of similar designs in wielding
the rules against debate.
How will the real issues of the death penalty ever be addressed? Only when
time has been allowed to separate the heat from the light.
(source: Editorial, Ames Tribune)
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