The Massachusetts Republican Party is reaffirming its position to reinstate the death penalty in the commonwealth for anyone who murders police officers. The issue resurfaced following the shooting death of Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon last week.
Gannon, 32, was serving an arrest warrant with his police dog Nero last Thursday at a home in Barnstable when he was shot in the head. Police arrested 29-year-old Tom Latanowich of Somerville, who is being charged with murder. Gannon was laid to rest Wednesday.
State Representative Shaunna O'Connell is a Republican from the 3rd Bristol district. She says there's a lot of support to revive the debate in Massachusetts on capital punishment.
"We're going to send a clear message that if you hurt or kill a law enforcement officer, you are going to pay a steep price for it here in Massachusetts. I do think legislators on the Cape are going to have a lot to say about this, as well," O'Connell said.
Many lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled legislature have said they're not interested in reopening debate on the issue. In 1984, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the state death penalty law as unconstitutional. Democratic State Representative James Miceli of the 19th Middlesex District has introduced legislation to reinstate the death penalty.
O'Connell is backing the renewed effort. She says, "it's good to have a conversation. There are people who are opposed and we certainly need to listen to what they have to say. But if we use this in very clear cut cases, in certain circumstances on a limited basis, we're going to send a message that we're tough on crime and we protect our law enforcement officers."
Other recent attempts to restore capital punishment in the Massachusetts have failed. In 2016, there was an effort to reinstate the death penalty after Auburn Officer Ronald Tarentino, Jr. was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop, and in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing.
An aide to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker says the governor supports the death penalty for those who kill officers. Senate President Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, opposes the death penalty and doesn't foresee Massachusetts reinstating capital punishment.