- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

BOSTON (AP) — Hoping to bring capital punishment to Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney is preparing to file a death penalty bill early next year that he says is so carefully written it will guarantee only the guilty are executed.

Based in part on the findings of a death penalty panel he appointed, the bill would limit capital punishment to the “worst of the worst” crimes, including terrorism, the murder of police officers, murder involving torture and the killing of witnesses. It would use evidence such as DNA testing to protect the innocent.

Mr. Romney wants his bill to be a model for other states.

“The weakness in the death penalty statutes in other states, of course, is the fear that you may execute someone who is innocent. We remove that possibility,” Mr. Romney said.

Massachusetts is one of a dozen states without capital punishment. The bill fulfills one of the Republican governor’s key campaign pledges, but faces a skeptical Democrat-controlled legislature.

“I don’t believe it’s possible to be 100 percent certain no matter what you do. Humans are fallible,” said state Rep. Elizabeth Malia, a Democrat.

Rep. Michael E. Festa, a Democrat, said Mr. Romney should focus on crime-fighting tactics that work, like a proposal to support community-based drug treatment programs. A member of the Criminal Justice Committee, he said he hopes Mr. Romney’s death penalty bill makes it to the floor of the House for a vote — so it can be defeated.

Mr. Romney said he based the bill in part on the recommendations of the panel he appointed.

The report calls for the creation of an independent committee to review all scientific evidence in a case. It proposes giving defendants in capital cases better lawyers and the opportunity to face two juries, one for the trial, and if convicted, a separate one for sentencing.

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