Death Penalty Being Discussed Again in Massachusetts

The Boston marathon bombings are reviving the debate over the death penalty in Massachusetts. The death penalty was abolished in Massachusetts in 1984. But now in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings, some lawmakers  want it reinstated. One is Norfolk Representative and US Senate Candidate Dan Winslow, who helped write the original death penalty proposal when he was chief legal counsel for Governor Mitt Romney.

“We understand that people of conscience can agree to disagree on this matter, but we have this option on the federal side.  We should have this option on the state side for the same reasons.”

The House debated an amendment to the state budget that would allow the death penalty in certain cases….cases such as killing law enforcement officers and firefighters, lawyers and witnesses, judges and other public officials. Since then Governor Romney proposed it in 2005, the death penalty has been repeatedly voted down in the Legislature. This time, it was introduced by Democratic Representative James Miceli several days before the marathon bombings….but the case against  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has brought the issue into a brighter spotlight. One opponent to bringing back the death penalty to Massachusetts is Rebecca Gewirtz from the National Association of Social Workers. She says now is not the time for vengeance.  It’s a time for healing.

“It was a terrible tragedy that happened here in Boston this past week and we all came together and leaned on each other and the whole world reached out to us and what a beautiful thing.  The answer isn’t to reinstitute the death penalty.  The answer is to bring the perpetrators to justice and bring the community together.”

While federal charges could result in a sentence of the federal death penalty, here in Massachusetts, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office is considering state charges that do not carry the death penalty. On Beacon Hill, the House leadership turned back the effort to add the amendment to the budget.  They used a parliamentary manoever to substitute a separate amendment calling for a study on the bill, so lawmakers would not have to cast a vote on reinstating the death penalty at such a heated time.