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October 18, 2007

Mitt Romney, a foolproof death penalty system, and tinkering with the machinery of death

I had a chance to talk with a reporter today about whether the Baze case and broader capital punishment issues might become a topic in the 2008 election campaign.  While saying "anything is possible" when it comes to the politics of the death penalty, I was reminded of the interesting encounter that candidate Mitt Romney had with death penalty politics when governor of Massachusetts.

As noted in my very first blog post, back in 2004 then-Governor Romney created by an 11-member death penalty commission to attempt to establish a nearly "foolproof" death penalty system for Massachusetts.  That committee produced a very interesting report --- which, intriguingly, is no longer easily accessible on-line [Update: S.cotus found the report] --- that became a Romney-backed bill for bringing the death penalty back to the Bay State.  However, as this amazing article from the Boston Phoenix highlights, Romney's capital punishment bill proved to be an extraordinary political disaster.  (The full title of the Boston Phoenix article is "The sudden death of Romney's dream: What once seemed like a clever ploy has become a political and policy disaster for the governor.")

Could Romney's bad experience with capital punishment politics in part explain why none of the presidential candidates have so far said boo about all the recent lethal injection controversies?

October 18, 2007 at 03:11 PM | Permalink


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Found it. Posted it here. (At the bottom of the post).

Posted by: S.cotus | Oct 18, 2007 5:00:03 PM

An interesting rebuttal at the time: Science and the Death Penalty, this in particular:

"There is no science that can assist them in making this essentially emotional decision. Robert Saulnier, a juror in the Gary Sampson trial, noted that the jury voted to execute Sampson in part because no one other than an ex-wife and a family friend testified on his behalf. He said that if Sampson had 'more people show up for him, it might have been a different story.' Saulnier's comments accurately reflect a system that makes the impact of the defendant's death on others a mitigating factor, but can it really be that a death penalty decision should turn on whether a defendant is loved by others or not?"

Posted by: George | Oct 18, 2007 6:33:34 PM

Interesting Post. After reading it, I thought you might be interested in some of our findings. Americans have long favored capital punishment, although the margin has declined in recent years. Half of Americans say the death penalty is not imposed enough, but most also believe that at least one innocent person has been sentenced to death in the past five years. Feel free to check out our crime facts at http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/factfiles.cfm?issue_type=crime, or contact me with any questions.

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