BOSTON — Connecticut, following a lengthy debate and vote last night, is poised to become the 17th state in the nation — and fifth in New England — to abolish the death penalty.
The Connecticut change made me wonder about the history of the death penalty in the other New England states. Here, from the Death Penalty Information Center, is some info:
- Maine (death penalty repealed in 1887)
- Massachusetts (death penalty repealed in 1984)
- New Hampshire (has the death penalty)
- Rhode Island (death penalty repealed in 1984)
- Vermont (death penalty repealed in 1964)
Though New Hampshire is the outlier, the state’s House in 2009 passed a bill to abolish the death penalty, but the legislation was stymied by a veto threat from Gov. John Lynch.
In 2007, Massachusetts House lawmakers — by a more than 2-1 margin — rejected a bill to reinstate the death penalty in this state. That followed an earlier reinstatement bill from then-Gov. Mitt Romney, which was also soundly defeated in the House.
More recently, the death penalty and Massachusetts were in the news when, in October, a judge tossed the death penalty sentence of Gary Lee Sampson, who was convicted of killing three people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As the AP reported, Sampson [had been] the first person sentenced to death in Massachusetts under the federal [emphasis mine] death penalty law.”
Though Massachusetts has not had the death penalty in decades, other strict sentences here are under scrutiny. Deborah Becker, for example, reported today on the case of Joe Donovan, who, at 17, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a Cambridge murder, though Donovan was not the killer.