Friday, September 26, 2003

Dateline: Massachusetts...

Mass. Governor Seeks Death Penalty Bill

The highlights:

Gov. Mitt Romney launched his bid to bring the death penalty back to Massachusetts on Tuesday, saying he wants to craft a law that will make it "virtually certain" that only those guilty of the worst crimes would be executed.

He named an 11-member panel of scientists, prosecutors and legal experts to write a bill that relies heavily on science to determine guilt or innocence.

During his campaign for governor last year, Romney said he supports reinstatement of the death penalty for certain crimes, including the murder of a police officer, terrorist acts, the killing of a witness or murders committed with "extreme atrocity."

The Republican governor faces an uphill fight in the Legislature, where support for the death penalty, which peaked after the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, has declined in recent years. The past four Republican governors have tried unsuccessfully to reinstate the death penalty, which was banned in the state in 1984.

Romney said the burden of proof used to sentence someone to death would likely need to be even tougher than the "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt" level needed to convict someone of a crime.

"We want a standard of proof that is incontrovertible," Romney said at a news conference. "This is a new kind of death penalty. ... Just as science can free the innocent, it can identify the guilty."

...In the case of Jeffrey Curley, two men are serving life sentences for luring the boy into a car, then smothered with a gasoline-soaked rag when he resisted their sexual advances. His corpse was found encased in a concrete-filled tub in a river in Maine.