Rep. Frank Smizik's maiden speech: 

 Members were asked to take their seats for Rep. Smizik's maiden speech.

 As you well know, today's vote is an authorization to kill people in the 
 name of the Commonwealth. As long as the government and the courts reflect 
 the imperfection of people, we must not give them the right to kill. 
 Proponents espouse a myth of a fair, nondiscriminatory system that kills 
 only the most heinous. That myth has never been achieved. I will not go 
 through the facts. But I will state that the president of the American Bar 
 Association last year called the death penalty one of the defining civil 
 rights issues of our time. Despite purported safeguards across the nation, 
 horrible miscarries persist. Since 1976, 99 persons have been wrongly 
 condemned to death.                                                        

 Undoubtedly one of the many reasons Massachusetts has held the line 
 against reinstating executions is our own special dubious history. In 
 front of the State House is a statue of Mary Dyer, who was hung on the 
 Boston Common in 1660 for attending the wrong church. In the 1920s, 
 immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti were tried in Dedham in an atmosphere of 
 vicious anti-immigrant sentiment, and later executed. Later, another man 
 confessed. In 1977, then Gov. Dukakis signed a declaration saying that 
 those proceedings were permeated with unfairness and that any stigma 
 should be removed from the names of their families and descendants. 

 In addition to the judicial deficiencies and human fallibilities, the 
 evidence is now overwhelming that the death penalty is not a deterrent. 
 Among the 38 states that have the death penalty, those states have much 
 higher homicide rates than those states without the death penalty. 
 Massachusetts continues to have some of the lowest homicide rates. In 
 reality, the death penalty diverts precious resources from real crime 
 control measures. It is a mistake to impute rational thinking to killers. 
 Shall we, Mr. Speaker, do the thinking or the killing? 

 Finally, my Jewish background requires me to oppose the death penalty on 
 moral grounds. In the Old Testament, the death penalty was authorized for 
 more than 30 crimes, including adultery, contempt of one's parents, 
 sorcery and profaning the Sabbath. But Jewish civil laws essentially 
 suspended the death penalty 2,000 years ago. Eli Wiesel has said he 
 opposes the death penalty with every fiber of his being. 

 Brookline has had a long proud tradition of opposing capital punishment. 
 This teaches me that killing another human being cheapens life, brutalizes 
 all of us, and very likely creates more violence. It merely reinforces the 
 notion of lethal vengeance. We should stand with the rest of the civilized 
 world and reject that message. 

 If I could paraphrase Kennedy after the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr.: 
 "Whenever an American life is taken unnecessarily, whether in the name of 
 law or in defiance of law, in cold blood or passion, in an attack of 
 violence or a response to violence. The whole nation is degraded. This much 
 is clear - violence begets violence." I urge you to ask yourself, why do we 
 deserve to make these decisions through an imperfect legal system? Like 
 slavery, torture and the subjugation of women, all of which were once 
 commonplace, the death penalty should be relegated to the scrap heap of 
 history. I hope, indeed I pray, that these bills do not pass.

 Members stood and applauded Rep. Smizik's maiden speech.

 State House News Service