Gov. W. Mitt Romney told lawmakers Thursday that his proposal to reinstate the death penalty comes with a guarantee that no innocent person would ever be executed in Massachusetts if his bill becomes law.
"This is as foolproof a death penalty as exists, and you will not have false convictions and false executions under this bill," the governor told the Judiciary Committee. "This won't happen."
If lawmakers believe that, we've got a tunnel in Boston we could sell them.
Since 1973, 119 convicted murderers in 25 states have been freed after evidence surfaced that they had been wrongly convicted, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Earlier this month, a prosecutor in Missouri said she will reopen the case of convicted murderer Larry Griffin after receiving evidence of his possible innocence - 10 years after he was executed by lethal injection.
Romney believes his bill has safeguards to prevent such mistakes, including a requirement for conclusive scientific evidence such as DNA analysis.
The death penalty, however, can never be made foolproof, as Romney later acknowledged when pressed by lawmakers.
A commission created by George Ryan when he was governor of Illinois concluded in 2002 that "no system, given human nature and frailties, could ever be devised or constructed that would work perfectly and guarantee absolutely that no innocent person is ever again sentenced to death."
2 years ago, Romney vetoed funds approved by the Legislature to create a Department of Forensic Sciences - just the type of department that would be necessary to provide the strict burden of proof that the governor promises in his bill.
In addition, the state's crime laboratory, medical examiner's office and local police departments are not funded at the levels needed to ensure that only the guilty are executed.
This newspaper has long opposed the death penalty, and will continue to speak out against it each time an attempt is made to reinstate it in Massachusetts. The death penalty does not deter violent crime; it unfairly targets blacks and other minorities, and it relies on a judicial system that, while the best in the world, is not perfect.
There are no guarantees in life - or in the death penalty.
Will we rest better if Fell dies?
Today, the jury sentenced Donald Fell to death for the brutal murder of Tressa King, an innocent woman with a family who loved her, who was just going to work.
Will we rest better now because we will kill Fell? Is his death about punishment or vengeance? Those of us who oppose the death penalty have sympathy for King's family and are horrified by the violent way she died.
My opposition to the death penalty automatically makes me an enemy of King's family. My empathy for her and sorrow for her family are lost in a fierce debate over whether the death penalty is a viable choice in a civilized society.
It is the same old battle cry. We kill to teach that killing is wrong, and we all become complicit in Fells' execution because we live in the state. My money will kill Fell. People will not stop killing people because we kill Fell.
What is worse is that those who imposed the death penalty won't have to be the ones who kill him. Someone else will do that for them.
We have become the thing we hate and that scares me.
NINETY-FIVE times, I personally walked a man who was sentenced to die to the death chamber in Texas. From the very first person executed by lethal injection, through 16 years of walking those eight steps from the holding cell in the death house to the impeccably clean gurney in the death chamber, I led a man - some were older, some convicted in their teens, some mentally ill, some very hardened by life and, I fully know, some who were innocent.To read the whole thing, go here.
Each one was different. They were brought to my unit early in the morning, usually, to be held for death at midnight, so I was with them for 18 hours, and in some cases even longer if their cases went to appellate courts and stays were held until 3, 4 or 5am - or the latest which was 6.20am the next day.
More than 200 men came to the death chamber in my time as chaplain there, and of those, 95 were murdered by the state in the name of "justice", but in all reality, it was "retaliation" or "punishment" or simply "murder by law".
During those many hours I spent talking with, mostly listening to, the men who would die after midnight when needles filled with three chemicals were inserted into their bodies, there was one question that was asked by many of those waiting to die: "How can we say that killing is wrong if we continue killing in the name of the state?"
A convicted murderer awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison has died of an apparent heroin overdose -- making him California's first inmate to OD on Death Row.
Michael Camacho, the L.A. deputy district attorney who prosecuted Rodriguez for the 1999 crimes, said the apparent overdose didn't surprise him. Rodriguez had a history of drug use, he said, and drugs are easy to get in prison -- even on Death Row. "The accessibility of narcotics is rampant in the Department of Corrections, even though they would prefer not to admit it,'' Camacho said.