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Ten-year-old Jeffrey Curley's killers committed a heinous crime. The people of Massachusetts and the parents of this innocent victim deserve justice and the (inadequate) comfort that accompanies retribution.
But at what price comes revenge?
If Gov. A. Paul Cellucci follows the lead of the Massachusetts legislature, prosecutors will have the option to seek capital punishment. In a disheartening change of opinion last Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 81 to 79 in favor of reinstating the death penalty.
The last state execution in Massachusetts was in 1947. For the last 50 years, the people of Massachusetts have recognized their own judicial fallibility and they have accordingly let punishment mean life imprisonment. The House rejected motions to reinstate the death penalty twice in the last four years, but in the wake of the recent string of murders in Cambridge and elsewhere in the state, liberal Massachusetts may in knee-jerk style join the 38 other states in the Union that sanction eye-for-an-eye justice.
The Curley family was largely responsible for bringing capital punishment before the state legislature and many of Jeffrey's relatives were in the balcony for the House's decision. But why should we equate justice with revenge? Juries are fallible. This fact is evident nowhere more than in a Cambridge jury's controversial decision last week to convict British au pair Louise Woodward of second-degree murder. The electric chair is final; its current seals jury convictions forever.
Though we sympathize with the Curleys and others whose relatives have been murdered, we are proud to live in a state where convicted murderers are allowed to live a dismal yet hopefully contemplative life in a prison cell and where innocent, convicted murderers have the chance to exonerate themselves when new evidence presents itself.
In theory the death penalty may appeal to some, but in practice it allows 12 ordinary and fallible people to make irrevocable judgments.
Gov. Cellucci, we call on you to lead the state of Massachusetts and to honor the last 50 years in which this state has nobly pronounced its unwillingness to kill. Veto the death penalty bill.
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