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Massachusetts Law About the Death Penalty

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c.265, s.2 provides for capital punishment in certain cases, but was ruled unconstitutional by Com. v. Colon-Cruz, 393 Mass. 150 (1984).

Selected Massachusetts Cases

Com. v. Colon-Cruz, 393 Mass. 150 (1984). Held MGL c.265, s.2 is unconstitutional because it unfairly punishes defendants who choose to go to trial, since the death penalty could only be used after a guilty verdict at trial and not after a guilty plea. "If a judge may not penalize a defendant for asserting his right to trial or his right not to plead guilty by imposing a harsher sentence than he otherwise would have, neither may the Legislature."

Suffolk County District Attorney v. Watson, 381 Mass. 648 (1980). Case rules a former death penalty statute unconstitutional (prior to enactment of Article 116 of the Amendments to Mass. Constitution), but is worth a read for the careful analysis of the issue, with references to literature, history, philosophy and more.

Selected Federal Cases

Baze v. Rees, 553 US 35 (April 16, 2008). Supreme Court held that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 US __ (June 25, 2008). "The Eighth Amendment bars Louisiana from imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child where the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim's death."

Other Web Resources

Death Penalty Information Center. Web site devoted to information on the Death Penalty nationwide.

Governor's Council on Capital Punishment: Final Report, Governor's Office, May 3, 2004. Recommendations to former Gov. Romney "to ensure that any death penalty statute that may be considered in Massachusetts would be as narrow, and as foolproof, as possible."

Success at Long Last: The Abolition of the Death Penalty in Massachusetts, 1928-1984, by Alan Rogers. Boston College Third World Law Journal, 2002. "This Article traces the contours of the anti-death penalty movement through the work of Sara Ehrmann, head of the Massachusetts Council Against the Death Penalty (MCADP), the numerous governors who had to confront this politically vexing issue, and the Supreme Judicial Court, which drove the final nail into the death penalty coffin in Massachusetts."