The effort to restore the death penalty in Massachusetts may be dead in its tracks. Robert E. Travaglini, State Senate President, yesterday vowed to defeat the proposal by Governor Mitt Romney to institute capital punishment in the state. Travaglini predicted its failure in the Legislature.
“I do not believe you’re ever going to see a death penalty in Massachusetts,” Travaglini, a Democrat with a long record of opposition to capital punishment, told the Boston Globe. “I am not going to allow this issue to take away the focus of this party from issues that I perceive to be of greater significance.”
Romney’s creation of a council of scientists and lawyers to find an “airtight” way to guarantee the guilt of capital defendants intrigues House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who has opposed the death penalty for 15 years, the Globe says. Finneran said he could envision supporting capital punishment if there were a foolproof, science-based way of proving guilt. “I know some people are encouraged by DNA, for example, and what it has allowed us to do in terms of releasing people who have been improperly convicted,” Finneran said. “The reverse might be true of that.” Finneran said it would be impossible to create a flawless system for determining guilt of death penalty defendants. As a result, he doubts Romney’s efforts will succeed.
A Globe poll of state lawmakers has found a two-vote majority opposing the death penalty in the Senate, which has usually backed capital punishment in recent years, and a 31-vote margin of opposition in the House. Capital punishment was banned in Massachusetts in 1984, 37 years after the state’s last execution. Polls repeatedly show most state voters in favor of capital punishment, yet Massachusetts remains one of 12 states that outlaw the death penalty. Romney is the fourth consecutive Republican governor to favor its reinstatement.