Friday, July 15, 2005 Thumbs down on Romney death penalty bill By Emelie Rutherford / Daily News Staff BOSTON -- MetroWest district attorneys and lawmakers joined a parade of death penalty opponents yesterday in criticizing a capital punishment bill backed by the governor, who said his measure requiring scientific evidence and doubt-free juries would be foolproof. "I would have complete confidence in any judgments that resulted following the enactment of this legislation," Romney said. Yet he hesitated to give a "100 percent guarantee" it would result in no wrongful convictions. "A 100 percent guarantee, I don't think there's such a thing in life," Romney told the joint Judiciary Committee during a hearing on his bill to reinstate the death penalty, which was abolished in Massachusetts in 1984. Romney's bill would allow death sentences for first-degree murder cases falling under specific criteria, such as when the victim was a police officer or the murder involved prolonged torture. Proposed safeguards include requiring scientific evidence connecting the defendant to the crime and requiring juries have "no doubt," instead of "beyond a reasonable doubt," of guilt. Romney estimated the bill would apply to only one or two murder cases each year. Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said concerns about mistakes and intentional misconduct by criminal justice personnel led her to drop her previous support for the death penalty. "There is no such thing as a foolproof death penalty," Coakley said. "We live in a system where people are fallible." State representatives and former prosecutors Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, and David Linsky, D-Natick, likewise insisted that scientific evidence from crime scenes cannot be considered perfect because it is processed by people. Coakley questioned how much safer the public would be with the death penalty in place, and said the cost to district attorneys' offices would be substantial. Norfolk District Attorney William Keating said prosecuting one death penalty case could cost millions of dollars, and could consume up to 60 percent of his budget. "Are we made safer by allocating huge resources to take a couple of people who are already going to die in prison and putting them to death?" Keating asked, questioning if money instead should be spent on putting more criminals in prison. While many MetroWest lawmakers support or reject the death penalty on party lines, state Rep. Marie Parente, D-Milford, backs Romney's bill because she believes it would be a deterrent to murder. She said concerns about the accuracy of forensic evidence do not sway her. "Let's count on the prosecutor or the defense attorney raising those issues during the trials, because the standard is they (the juries) have no doubt," Parente said. Romney said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to try to reinstate the death penalty, though he admitted he has no reason to think lawmakers will be more receptive to doing so now than in previous failed attempts.