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July 22, 2005

Romney's "foolproof" death penalty looking foolish in Massachusetts

Thankfully, Howard at How Appealing took a break from Roberts-mania just long enough to note this amazing article from the Boston Phoenix, which discusses the fate of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's capital punishment bill.  (Background on Romney's bill, which the Governor had claimed would create a death penalty that was "virtually foolproof," can be found in a post here and in commentary here and here.)

The full title of the Boston Phoenix article, "The sudden death of Romney's dream: What once seemed like a clever ploy has become a political and policy disaster for the governor," captures its essence.  The piece merits a full read, especially because it highlights some of the practical  trade-offs that are inevitable in any modern debate over the death penalty.  Here are some choice passages from a great article:

[T]he best example of how sad and lonely this bill is?  The Romney team can't even provide the de rigueur prop for a piece of tough-on-crime legislation: a victim's teary-eyed family member.  A few showed up to testify against the bill, and the governor's office has yet to find anyone in favor who will even stand alongside Romney for photo ops.

Romney's plan can best be described as a right-wing parody of a liberal's perfect death-penalty bill: an expensive and complicated new bureaucracy that would execute nobody.  The bill calls for layers and layers of new processes and legal requirements, while restricting death-penalty eligibility so narrowly that it's hard to find any real case to which it would ever apply.  Whether this was bad work by Romney's staff or the inevitable result of a quixotic endeavor, it's not likely to appeal to many people on either side of the debate....

Instead of a symbolic death penalty, [a local district attorney at the legislative hearing advocated for] some real crime-fighting capability....  This was the overarching theme of the hearing, and a sign of how this death-penalty bill is backfiring on Romney.   It has become a focal point for discussion of what his administration has not done to improve public safety and criminal prosecution.  Why not add police, increase prosecutorial budgets, improve crime labs, raise pay for court-appointed defense attorneys?  "Why is this the best way to spend money?" asks State Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), a member of the judiciary committee.  "There was no answer to that."

UPDATE:  Gideon at the blog a Public Defender has this detailed post providing addition coverage and insights on Romney's bill and the Phoenix article.

July 22, 2005 at 01:48 AM | Permalink

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Prof. Berman provides a link to this excellent article in the Boston Phoenix, which details the complete lack of support for MA Gov. Romney's foolproof death penalty bill.State Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), normally a slam-dunk vote for any death-p... [Read More]

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