Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty? ; While Other States Rethink Capital Punishment, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney Asks Panel to Explore Its Reinstatement

By Seth Stern writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty? ; While Other States Rethink Capital Punishment, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney Asks Panel to Explore Its Reinstatement


Seth Stern writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Getting tough on crime is a staple theme for many a politician. But here in Massachusetts, which hasn't executed an inmate in 56 years, Gov. Mitt Romney is pushing capital punishment with a provocative new twist.

Advances in forensic science, he argues, have made it possible to adopt a death-penalty system so reliable that innocents on death row can be made a thing of the past.

"Just as science can be used to free the innocent, it can be used to identify the guilty," Mr. Romney said recently.

It's a controversial thesis, coming at a time when the American public is rethinking the death penalty after certain death-row inmates have been exonerated and several reports have found persistent racial disparities. Yet Romney is trying to move one of the nation's most liberal states - one of 12 without the death penalty - in the opposite direction.

So last month, the Republican governor appointed a council of scientific and legal luminaries to study how to build a more perfect death-penalty statute. Reestablishing the death penalty, he argues, would serve as an important deterrent for those individuals responsible for the most heinous and violent crimes.

Joseph Hoffmann, an Indiana University law professor and cochair of the council, says the goal is a death-penalty system so reliable that he'd stake his own life on it. "Obviously, in a theoretical sense, no human endeavor can be said to be perfect," he says. "At the same time, it's quite fair and accurate to say that there is a [higher] level of certainty and a level of confidence that we can aspire to."

Experience in other states

Similar commissions established elsewhere, however, have highlighted the limits of DNA evidence and suggest a foolproof death penalty remains out of reach.

"There's no question the death penalty can be made better," says attorney and author Scott Turow, who served on the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment. "But we will still convict a certain number of innocent persons."

Thirteen states have appointed independent commissions to study their death-penalty statutes in recent years. Their recommendations suggest that DNA evidence is not a panacea for what lands innocents on death row.

One problem is that only a fraction of homicides involves DNA evidence. Murders ranging from a drive-by shooting to the Oklahoma City bombing leave no DNA at the crime scene.

"We assume DNA evidence is available," says William Alexa, a former Indiana state senator and current judge who served on Indiana's committee. "That's not always the case."

Where DNA evidence is part of a case, forensic scientists may still mishandle it, as scandals in Oklahoma and the FBI crime lab have proved. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty? ; While Other States Rethink Capital Punishment, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney Asks Panel to Explore Its Reinstatement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.