Guide Massachusetts law about the death penalty

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on capital punishment.

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 (2008)
Supreme Court held that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Kennedy v. Louisiana , 554 US 945 (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."

Web sources

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."

Last update: January 22, 2018


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