Expressing frustration over the lengthy criminal record of a man accused of killing a Yarmouth Police officer last week, Rep. Shaunna O’Connell said she would like to see judges held more accountable for their rulings.
In an interview on Greater Boston, the Taunton Republican reiterated her support for the death penalty for killing a member of law enforcement.
“There might not be an appetite on Beacon Hill, but there’s certainly an appetite with the public and among law enforcement for this,” O’Connell said.
“We’ve just seen an officer ambushed and gunned down, and I think it’s important that we send a message that we’re going to protect our law enforcement officers and if you murder a law enforcement officer you’re going to meet that same fate,” she added.
O’Connell's position on the death penalty echoes a long-standing belief of Gov. Charlie Baker, who also renewed his support on the issue following the shooting death of Yarmouth’s Sgt. Sean Gannon. Last week, Gannon was serving a warrant when police say he was shot and killed by 29-year old Thomas Latanowich, who had more than 100 criminal entries on his record.
“This wasn’t a person who made a few mistakes and who could be rehabilitated," O’Connell said. "This was a person who judges let off the hook again and again and again. He violated his parole three times and still was not back in jail.”
It's not the first time calls to reinstate the death penalty have come up in Massachusetts. Two years ago, Auburn Officer Ronald Tarantino was shot and killed during a traffic stop. In that case, the shooter also had a lengthy criminal record.
Reacting to past criticism by Auburn Police Chief Andy Sluckis, who criticized the lack of public accountability of judges with lifetime appointments, O’Connell said something needs to change.
“Judges are not following the law,” she said. "They’re letting people out of jail, they're dismissing cases, they're giving light sentences and they’re coddling criminals. We should be more worried about the victims and the safety of our communities than we are about hardcore criminals.”
O’Connell appeared on Greater Boston with Kari Hong, law professor at Boston College, and Michael Astrue, former associate counsel to George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
For more on the debate over capital punishment and judicial oversight, click on the link above.