During the two-hour panel discussion, held in HLS's Austin Hall and sponsored by the Harvard Journal on Legislation, speakers shared professional and personal reasons for their stances on capital punishment.
Opponents of death penalty were State Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas M. Finneran; Ann Lambert, a lobbyist for the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union; Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA; and Representative John P. Slattery (D-Peabody).
Minority Leader of the state House of Representatives Francis L. Marini and Evan Slavitt, the general counsel of the Massachusetts Republican Party, argued in favor of the death penalty.
Capital punishment in Massachusetts has been legalized and struck from the books several times during the past century, though no one has actually been executed in the state since 1947, according to Associate Dean of HLS Carol S. Steiker '82, who moderated the panel.
Since it was last outlawed in 1984, there have been several attempts to reintroduce capital punishment. The most recent of these, a bill introduced by Gov. Paul A Cellucci, was narrowly voted down by the House only two weeks ago.
Participants focused their arguments on one central question: whether the risk of executing innocent people should outweigh the moral obligation to sufficiently punish the guilty.
Finneran said that early in his career he had been a staunch proponent of capital punishment. He said his change of heart came when he met a man who had been wrongly imprisoned for almost two decades.
"My epiphany was based upon the simple observation that this gentleman potentially may have had his life taken from him based on a vote I had cast," Finneran said.
Bedau Decries Theory Behind Death PenaltyCharging that capital punishment does not deter criminals and that the "eye-for-an-eye" theory of justice is outdated, Hugo A. Bedau,
Cellucci's Capital ErrorKeeping a promise he made after last year's failed attempt to bring capital punishment back to the Commonwealth, Governor A.
Clearing the UnderbrushRecent events in Massachusetts have reopened a statewide debate over the death penalty. Most recently, the state House of Representatives
English VI.Subject: "Resolved, That capital punishment should be abolished." Brief for the Affirmative.W. H. Cobb and Edw. C. Bradlee. General references:
Romney Forms Council To Advise on Death PenaltyBOSTON—Seeking to bring about legislation next year that would reinstitute the death penalty in Massachusetts, Governor W. Mitt Romney (R)
It’s Never Acceptable, MittIn a move that reveals his indifference to ethical principles, Massachusetts Governor W. Mitt Romney announced on Tuesday the creation