Berkshire Eagle
  Saturday, November 12, 2005

  Dead on arrival

  Massachusetts has a legitimate claim to being one of the most enlightened 
  states in the country, in part because it does not give the government the 
  power to execute prisoners. Civilized nations have ruled out killing as a 
  form of punishment -- Europe, especially after centuries of unjust killing 
  by its rulers, is wary of any state-sanctioned death penalty.

  In the United States, however, federal crimes are punishable by death and 
  individual states can opt for the ultimate measure. It should be a source 
  of pride for the commonwealth that it does not carry out executions, which 
  is why it's unfortunate that the debate should even come up again in the 
  Statehouse, prompted by legislation calling for the institution of the 
  death penalty by Governor Mitt Romney.

  It has been said that the American experience has not soured the public on 
  execution because the country has never been ruled by tyrants who could 
  kill at will. In the United States, a system of justice has always 
  prevailed that has insured fairness, and even when the final conclusion is 
  death that decision is made after careful deliberation. But that argument 
  is illusory because there are inequities in U.S. courts that have 
  indisputably led to unfair and wrongful convictions. Some of those 
  inequities include lack of access to quality representation and prejudice 
  against minority defendants.

  Governor Romney claims his proposal is fool proof and would only execute 
  people who are 100 percent guilty, but that is an impossibility.
  Punishment would only be implemented if DNA evidence and legal safeguards 
  ensure a fair trial, according to the governor, but the possibility of 
  corruption and incompetence make these measures less than fool proof.

  Every state that uses the death penalty would claim all of the prisoners 
  killed were absolutely guilty, but recently prisoners around the country 
  are being let off death row because new evidence has proved their 
  innocence. How many innocents were killed unjustly? A system of justice 
  that kills even one innocent person has been corrupted and needs reform. 
  The trend of most states in the nation is to question their use of the 
  death penalty considering how many prisoners have been exonerated, but 
  Massachusetts' governor wants to take the state in the other direction.

  Governor Romney's death penalty plan is set to be debated in the House 
  next week, and fortunately the bill has little support. The governor 
  undoubtedly knows this, but believes pushing for the death penalty will 
  earn him support from conservatives for his all but inevitable 
  presidential campaign. That is a cynical approach toward an issue of life 
  and death that no government, state or federal, should ever play a part in.