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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Romney’s Perfect Death

Republican Governor Mitt Romney is attempting to radically alter our state’s policy on how we treat our criminals. He has assembled a committee of experts who will examine the merits of state-of-the-art scientific methods that could possibly be used to prove a murderer’s guilt, but more importantly to Romney’s political career, it could potentially set a model for the rest of the country.

People have differing opinions on capital punishment. Many people argue the morality of this issue: should the government, which forbids murder, be killing people? Is having the punishment on the books worth it if we risk the death of innocent people? Others believe that it acts as a deterrent to potential criminals, or argue that it is justice of the eye-for-an-eye variety. Romney is attempting to overcome the objections of those who fear the death of innocents by implementing a “perfect” death penalty.

The panel, in other words, is examining the feasibility of a death penalty only applied to people who have been proven guilty by the very technology that is now releasing falsely convicted death row inmates: DNA evidence. The governor points to the fact that, according to U.S. News & World Report (USN&WP), DNA is accurate enough to prove that one death row prisoner for every 7 executed is innocent, saying it should also be accurate enough to prove a defendant’s guilt.

There are several problems with this plan. First, Massachusetts residents can’t afford a death penalty. Earlier this year The Nation wrote, “recent studies show that the cost of the death penalty exceeds the cost of life sentences without parole by more than 30 percent.” The Journal of Social Issues asserts that the death penalty costs even more when “one considers what economists call ‘opportunity costs’ (i.e., the value of what could have been purchased if X had not been purchased).” In other words, the hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent each year on capital punishment could be more productively spent on social services aimed at prevention and reduction of crime.

The second reason we should wonder if Romney is wasting our tax dollars is the question of whether or not Massachusetts residents will even be receptive to a death penalty. The state has repeatedly voted down proposals to reinstate capital punishment. The Boston Globe wrote recently that the “margin against the death penalty in the [Massachusetts] House [of Representatives] has widened in the last several years with the decline of public support.” That paper also noted that public support still stands at around fifty-three percent for the punishment; however as USN&WP illuminates, “that support is rooted in an underlying assumption: that the right person is being executed.”

According to a recent publication of JSI studies found that in two of the states which make the most frequent use of the death penalty, Florida and Georgia, forty-eight percent and twenty percent, respectively, of the death sentences reviewed on direct appeal were reversed. “This rate of reversal is nearly ten times higher than the rate of reversals for non-capital cases,” the journal affirms.

A costly plan for an unreceptive audience: time and money would be better spent finding solutions to the state’s current fiscal crisis, rather than inventing a new one. Romney should work on funding education and creating jobs.