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December 30, 2004

The perfect death penalty

His Excellency the Governor has said that he plans to file a bill to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts.  And this time it's going to be perfect: "it will guarantee only the guilty are executed."

We expect Romney's bill to hew pretty closely to the report of the Commission that he appointed a few months ago whose charge was to design the perfect death penalty system.  We have a lot of questions about the proposals in that report, but we'll hold off on specifics until the Governor actually files his bill.  For now, we have just one big question: is Romney committed to funding the enormous expense that his death penalty plan will entail?  His Excellency, of course, is opposed to new taxes in any form for any reason - he even thinks he can create universal health insurance in Massachusetts without raising taxes.  Yet Romney's own death penalty commission - which advocates for extensive DNA testing and highly qualified counsel in every death penalty case to prevent the execution of innocent people - says the following (at page 5 of the report):

[E]ach capital trial will be expensive. Moreover, additional costs inevitably will be incurred due to the proposed creation of new governmental institutions to review scientific evidence and post-trial claims of innocence. The Council strongly believes that, if the death penalty is to be reinstated in Massachusetts, such increased costs simply must be borne. It is not possible to have a death penalty system that is both inexpensive, and at the same time capable of being relied upon to produce accurate and fair results.

We anxiously await the Governor's explanation of how he plans to fund his luxury death penalty program without raising taxes or choking off other necessary programs.

Finally, this article on Romney's death penalty plan caught our eye.  It quotes state Rep. Phillip Travis (D-Rehoboth), who supports reinstating the death penalty, as advancing the following airtight argument:

Travis said, "God doesn’t take a stand against the punishment of death."
"Christ was executed," Travis added.

Whew!  Where to begin with that one?  For one thing, the Romans' unfortunate penchant for crucifixion does not strike us as the best argument in favor of capital punishment.  For another, there's that pesky "Thou shalt not kill" commandment to contend with.  But we're sure Rep. Travis has answers at the ready.  We look forward to hearing them in the coming debate.

Posted by David at 10:54 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink

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Comments

that pesky commandment

"Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder" which has as part of its rabbinical interpretation "if someone is planning on killing you, rise up and kill him first."

There are many sound arguments against the death penalty, but the old testament with its extended list of reasons for stoning people to death, all consistent with the 'ten commandments' (properly, the 17 Utterances of Moses, my friend the synagogue president tells me), is perhaps not the best place to start.

Posted by: George Phillies | Jan 3, 2005 12:09:40 PM

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