Death penalty legislation on governor’s agenda

Gov. Mitt Romney presented to the public Sept. 23 members of a panel of scientific and legal experts that he commissioned to draft a proposal to reinstate the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

The task of the Governor’s Council on Capital Punishment will not be to decide whether or not the death penalty should exist in Massachusetts, but to detail how a capital punishment statute would function in the state.

Gov. Romney, who publicly supports the death penalty, said the 11-member panel will use expertise in forensic science and law “to design death penalty legislation that meets the highest evidentiary standards.”

The governor went on to say that appointees have not been subject to a litmus test because it will be the legislature that ultimately decides whether the death penalty will be reinstated in Massachusetts.

He claimed that the council is different than any other formed in the past to examine the issue, because its “primary focus is on assuring that the latest advances in science and technology are applied to future death penalty cases.”

"This is a new kind of death penalty bill that we intend to fashion," the governor continued. "One that puts science above all other considerations, ahead of eye witness testimony, ahead of confessions."

Gov. Romney has asked the panel to devise a bill that assures that only those “we are highly confident, 100 percent certain” of guilt, will be executed. The bill will also be narrowly applicable—mass murders resulting from a terrorist attack, homicide with the purpose to undermine justice, ie. killing of a judge, prosecutor, witness, law enforcement agent and in cases where the most heinous, violent crimes have been committed.

"We believe that a carefully crafted death penalty law--one that is narrowly applied and relies on the highest standard of proof--will help to deter some of the increasingly brutal violence in our society," said Gov. Romney. "Strides have been made in medical and forensic science... that can allow us to produce a standard of evidence which assures that only the guilty are punished with the ultimate high standard of punishment."

According to Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the council will meet frequently through 2004 and a bill will be filed some time next year.

Sitting on the panel are: Prof. Joseph Hoffman, co-chair of the commission and professor of law at Indiana University; Dr. Frederick Beiber, co-chair of the commission and medical geneticist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Judge Robert Barton, retired Superior Court judge; Attorney Ralph Boyd Jr., partner with Alston & Bird LLP in D.C.; District Attorney of the Plymouth County Timothy Cruz; Donald Haves Jr. forensic scientist and director of the Boston Police Department Crime Lab; Dr. Henry Lee, one of the world’s foremost forensic scientist who testified in the O.J. Simpson trial; Attorney Henry Moniz, partner at Brigham McCutcheon LLP; Kathleen O’Toole, president and founder of O’Toole Associates an international consulting firm; Dr. Carl Selavka, forensic scientist and director of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab; and Attorney Michael Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

Support for the death penalty in Massachusetts peaked in the Legislature after the 1997 murder of 10-year old Jeffrey Curley of Cambridge. In recent years, support has declined. The past four Republican governors have tried and failed to reinstate the death penalty.

Massachusetts, which banned the death penalty in 1984, is only one of 12 states without capital punishment. In recent years, federal prosecutors have asked that the death penalty be considered for several Massachusetts murders, most recently in the case of Gary Lee Sampson.

Gerry D’Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), attended the press conference. While he acknowledged that Gov. Romney is taking a new, “much more sophisticated approach,” he does not feel that valid reasons exist for reinstating capital punishment.

"The governor thinks it's an issue that the public might want to look at again. He supports capital punishment and wants to see if there is a venue for him to push that issue," said D'Avolio. "We [MCC and the Church] happen to disagree with him. He feels very strongly on capital punishment and supports it, and this is an avenue to maybe ease the issue into the legislature through this council."

The Church, D’Avolio noted, has always taken a clear stance on capital punishment and MCC plans to defend that position.

In terms of the establishment of the council, “we will just wait and see and evaluate what comes out of that council, but I don’t envision any changes. The Church has been very consistent and strong on this issue for many years now,” stated D’Avolio.

The Church’s position on the death penalty has been greatly developed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on life, Evagelium Vitae. The pope has written that “The nature and extent of punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity; in other words, where it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

The bishops of Massachusetts have spoken out against the death penalty since 1980. A statement they issued in 1999 called the death penalty “simply wrong.”

"It solves no problem. It renders us evermore callous as a society to human life. It encourages in us a mentality of vengeance and revenge," the statement reads. "Yet no amount of revenge can bring back a loved one. Capital punishment does not provide genuine solace to those burdened by the loss of murdered loved ones."

That same year, then-Bishop Seán O’Malley of Fall River, dedicated a pastoral letter to the subject. In it he called for the abolition of the death penalty in order to promote a “more just society” and to find “real solutions to alleviate crime and violence.”

"Justice is not revenge. Killing murderers does not deter murders, but, rather, promotes an attitude that life is cheap and that when we have the power it is all right to kill," says Archbishop O'Malley in his pastoral. "State-sponsored violence will not promote a new respect for life, but only serve to erode reverence for life even more."

The question of whether to reinstate the death penalty is complex, stated D’Avolio, and an answer will not be found by passing a bill that ensures it is used in a small number of cases.

"It's much more complicated... It's a moral question for some, a conscience question for some," said D'Avolio. "It's another life and a perpetuation of violence when you take another one's life. It's not as simple as finding clear proof of a person's guilt. It's much more in depth than that."

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...