BOSTON--After 12 hours of debate yesterday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 81 to 79 to reinstitute the death penalty.
Twice rejected by the House in the past four years, the death penalty has long been simmering below the surface of the state's political scene.
But with a string of recent murders, including that of 10-year-old Cambridge boy Jeffrey Curley--fresh on the public's mind, the issue is now surging to the surface.
"I think we're finally going to do something about the insanity," Jim Curley, Jeffrey's uncle and godfather, told The Crimson in an interview last night.
The Curley family was largely responsible for bringing capital punishment before the state legislature and many of the boy's relatives were on hand for yesterday's decision.
Immediately after the voting closed, another uncle of Jeffrey's, John Curley, jumped to his feet and expressed his approval to the assembly below.
"Thank you for saving our children," he shouted before being removed by security officers.
But last night's vote did not make the bill law. The bill must still pass through a conference committee and receive the signature of Gov. A. Paul Cellucci.
But according to most, a Senate vote in favor of a similar bill last week, combined with Cellucci's long-standing support of the death penalty, mean that its enactment is virtually guaranteed.
Last night, Cellucci--who spent yesterday lobbying his former House colleagues--expressed satisfaction with the vote.
"Today we sent a message," Cellucci told reporters. "We're not going to tolerate the heinous murders we've seen in Massachusetts within the past couple of weeks."
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Boston) bitterly fought last night's vote with an arsenal of legislative tactics, but he said he was not entirely discouraged.
"It's hard to be disappointed when the majority speaks," he told reporters. "That's the nature of the system."
And while Finneran noted that the House has passed other bills by one vote, he said that last night's decision was unique.
"[There has been] nothing of this magnitude, since this involves life and death," he said.