Execution Watch: Mitt Romney's 'Foolproof' Death Penalty Act and the Politics of Capital Punishment
29 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2011 Last revised: 4 Feb 2012
Date Written: December 1, 2011
This article presents a legal and political analysis of the 2003-2005 effort of Governor Mitt Romney to make the death penalty available as a sentencing option in Massachusetts. It begins with a description of the history of capital punishment in the state as context for Mr. Romney’s creation of the Governor’s Council on Capital Punishment. The Council’s mandate, recommendations, and Final Report are set forth, followed by a summary of proposed legislation based thereon. Public, media, and academic reactions to the Governor’s plan are the basis for an analysis of the political implications of this undertaking, framed by the question “Was Governor Romney primarily interested in making good public policy or in advancing his political ambitions to be President of the United States?” The article then takes an objective look at the merits of the Romney plan in terms of current understandings about the practice and policy of capital punishment in the United States. With the defeat of the Romney bill and the strength of the legislative rejection of the death penalty in Massachusetts as a backdrop, the article concludes with a focus on what this process teaches about Mr. Romney’s governing style and the strength of his political beliefs.
Keywords: Death Penalty, Mitt Romney, Capital Punishment, Politics and Criminal Sentencing, Legislation
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