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    Should Massachusetts reinstate the death penalty for those who murder police officers?


    Shaunna O’Connell

    State representative, Taunton Republican whose district includes parts of Easton and Taunton

    Shaunna O’Connell

    The recent fatal shooting of Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon unfortunately reminds us once again that our state needs to reinstitute the option of the death penalty.

    Capital punishment promotes justice for the most horrific crimes committed in our society. I strongly believe the punishment should be used on a case-by-case basis when it fits the crime and has a chance to deter future offenders. As a starting point, we should adopt legislation to allow the death penalty for those who kill law enforcement officers.

    In the case of Officer Gannon, Tom Latanowich, who has been charged with murder, is a career criminal with over 100 charges on his record. Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. also was allegedly murdered by a career criminal, Jorge Zambrano, who police said shot him in the back during a routine traffic stop in 2016.


    These two police officers who were committed to serving and protecting our communities were murdered in cold blood.

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    Furthermore, murderers serving life without parole have no incentive for rehabilitation and often no respect for the lives of correction officers. If those inmates kill a guard or anyone else, the death penalty is the appropriate punishment.

    Those who oppose the death penalty suggest that an innocent person could be wrongfully convicted. In both the case of Latanonwich and Zambrano, there appears to be little question about who committed the crime. However, there are many safeguards when it comes to handing out this sentence. There are separate trials for the crime and the punishment.

    The most important reason to implement the death penalty is to save lives. A 2004 study by Paul Zimmerman, a Federal Communication Commission economist, found that each execution from 1978 to 1997 deterred an average of 14 murders annually. Another study done at Emory University in 2003 found each execution deterred an average of 18 murders. People fear death. A life sentence does not carry that same fear factor.

    The men and women who put their lives on the line every day deserve protection. Bringing back the death penalty for those who take their lives is one way to provide that.




    Barbara Lea Callaghan

    Minister at Hancock United Church of Christ, Lexington

    Barbara Lea Callaghan

    “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves,” wrote Confucius.

    It is tempting to hope that the execution of a murderer will set a victim’s family free. Inevitably, it does not. The death penalty is about the least effective way for a victim’s family to find closure, healing, or peace. In focusing on revenge, any real healing is unnecessarily delayed by the interminable death penalty appeals process, leaving those families to spend precious years or decades of their lives reliving the horror and trauma of the murder.

    In fact, I would argue that an execution ties them emotionally to the murderer and to the trauma more than it frees them and leads to justice. Freedom can more readily be found in settling for life in prison, and putting one’s energy into healing and letting the trauma and pain integrate into the whole of a life.

    In the end there is no such thing as closure for any kind of death. There is no getting over it, but rather as Albert Huffstickler writes in his poem “The Cure” there is only learning to move with the pain until it finds “its place in the shape of things.” Revenge prevents love and righteousness from happening.


    This is true on a societal level as well. When one of America’s finest is killed while trying to protect and serve us, it is a tragic, senseless loss that can never be made right. Instituting the death penalty for such horrors will not make it right.

    As a Christian minister, I believe Jesus’s command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself is how justice and righteousness are made real in communities and society. On this level the death penalty, under any circumstance, does not bring about justice, but rather is a hindrance to the biblical understanding of a justice that leads to righteousness, where love truly wins.

    We would be better served by putting our energy into supporting the community and family in this kind of tragedy, and to work for safer streets and fewer guns in the hands of those who misuse them.

    (This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)

    As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact