IN A POOR BOSTON NEIGHBORHOOD one of these days, a little girl is going to die in a drive-by shooting. As she plays with her friends on the sidewalk near her house, a car will screech past and a bullet meant for another will explode in her brain. When the police arrest the killers, it will turn out that one of them had killed before. Convicted of murder, locked up for some years, he had eventually made parole (or had his sentence commuted) and been released. Because Massachusetts refuses to execute murderers, he had lived to kill again.
As the blood from that little girl's skull puddles on the pavement, remember to hold Daniel Bosley, James Brett, Arthur Broadhurst, John Businger, Antonio Cabral, Michael Cahill, Thomas Cahir, Paul Caron and Paul Casey responsible. They were among the state representatives who voted on July 26 not to put murderers to death.
Sooner or later, murderers who aren't executed are released. Some of them go on to kill (or rape or maim or molest) again. That is cold fact, not speculation. Of the 2,575 murderers on death row in the United States on Jan.1, 1993, almost one-10th -- 230 -- had prior convictions for homicide.
Within a few years, a gang of criminals in Walpole State Prison will plan an escape. At the moment the inmates make their move, a prison guard will interfere -- and be killed on the spot. Another guard will be badly stabbed. He'll die a few days later.
For the deaths of the correction officers and for the anguish of their families, Bill Cass, Carol Cleven, David Cohen, Gary Coon, Donna Cuomo, Brian Dempsey, Sal DiMasi, Carol Donovan, Stephen Doran, Marc Draisen, and Hasty Evans will deserve blame. They, too, voted to keep murderers safe from execution.
Sending a vicious killer to the electric chair or the gallows is above all an act of morality. It is the only way for a civilized society to adquately express its revulsion and anger toward those who commit such evil. But it is also a matter of safety: Only capital punishment can permanently incapacitate a killer. Life imprisonment isn't enough. Some murderers kill behind bars. Some escape. Those are also cold facts.
A prison inmate or guard is killed every three days in this country, 40 percent of them by convicts serving time for murder. Since 1971, 46 inmates have died at Walpole alone -- at least nine of them, according to reports, at the hands of first-degree murderers already serving life terms. No matter how many more times these savages shed blood, they will never have to pay a price, thanks to James Fagan, Tom Finneran, Kevin Fitzgerald, Charlie Flaherty, Nancy Flavin, Gloria Fox, William Galvin, Barbara Gardner, Althea Garrison, and David Gately.
There is a kid in Massachusetts who is cavalier about human life because it is treated so cheaply by the criminals he sees in the streets. He has never committed murder himself, but nothing has ever taught him to recoil from the idea. If a certain thug he knows, a guy who did commit murder, were executed, it would scare this kid straight. But the thug lives and prospers, receiving visitors at MCI-Norfolk, and the kid admires his swagger.
Never deterred by seeing an example made of someone else, the kid will commit his own murder one day. He will kill his mother in a plot to collect insurance proceeds, setting her house on fire while she sleeps. When it happens, don't forget who made that horror possible: Emile Goguen, Barbara Gray, Geoffrey Hall, Lida Harkins, Robert Hawke, Jeffrey Hayward, Christopher Hodgkins, Kevin Honan, Frank Hynes, and Pat Jehlen.
No one claims that executing murderers deters most potential killers. But it surely deters some. Executions came to a halt in the United States in the mid-1960s (well before Furman v. Georgia, the 1972 Supreme Court decision that temporarily struck down all death penalty statutes); they didn't resume until around 1980. In that decade and a half, murder exploded nationwide -- from 9,960 homicides in 1965 to 23,040 in 1980.
Two elderly parents, their son gunned down in an armed robbery, will spend their days in a fog of pain and fury. They will lie awake every night, sick with the knowledge that while their son will never again kiss a girl, or swing a bat, or laugh at a joke, the barbarian who killed him will be able to do all those things. They will suffer unknowable grief. But because of Louis Kafka, Stephen Karol, Thomas Kennedy, Sally Kerans, and Paul Kollios, Massachusetts will show them no compassion. Those legislators voted to spare killers and turn a deaf ear to survivors -- as did Stephen Kulik, Edward Lambert, Patrick Landers, Harold Lane and Peter Larkin.
A college girl in Amherst will be raped at gunpoint, then shot dead by the rapist to keep her from accusing him. With no death penalty to fear, he'll figure, Why not? The worst I could get is a few extra years in prison. It is Robert Lawless, John McDonough, Thomas McIntyre, Bill McManus, and Joan Menard who will have lowered the cost of that girl's life. As also William Nagle, Janet O'Brien, Karen O'Donnell, Shirley Owens-Hicks, Anne Paulsen, Douglas Petersen, Marsha Platt, John Quinn, Pamela Resor, John Rogers, and Byron Rushing.
Decisions have consequences. Because the Supreme Court, in Furman, saved more than 470 murderers from death, at least seven new victims lost their lives. And because Angelo Scaccia, Susan Schur, Anthony Scibelli, Emanuel Serra, John Stefanini, Douglas Stoddart, Ellen Story, William Straus, and Ben Swan voted against the death penalty, other victims will lose their lives.
When murderers live, more people die. Cold fact. It has nothing to do with racial statistics, or with the impossible odds of a wrongful execution. Those who voted to keep murderers alive -- and that includes Alvin Thompson, Warren Tolman, Timothy Toomey, Susan Tracy, Eric Turkington, Daniel Valianti, Richie Voke, Joseph Wagner, Patricia Walrath, and Thomas Walsh -- voted to send innocent men, women, and children to their deaths. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)