Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts (Google eBook)

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2008 - History - 494 pages
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For more than 300 years Massachusetts executed men and women convicted of murder, but with a sharp eye on "due proceeding" and against the backdrop of popular ambivalence about the death penalty's morality, cruelty, efficacy, and constitutionality. In this authoritative book, Alan Rogers offers a comprehensive account of how the efforts of reformers and abolitionists and the Supreme Judicial Court's commitment to the rule of law ultimately converged to end the death penalty in Massachusetts. In the seventeenth century, Governor John Winthrop and the Massachusetts General Court understood murder to be a sin and a threat to the colony's well-being, but the Puritans also drastically reduced the crimes for which death was the prescribed penalty and expanded a capital defendant's rights. Following the Revolution, Americans denounced the death penalty as "British and brutish" and the state's Supreme Judicial Court embraced its role as protector of the rights extended to all men by the Massachusetts Constitution. In the 1830s popular opposition nearly stopped the machinery of death and a vote in the Massachusetts House fell just short of abolishing capital punishment. A post-Civil War effort extending civil rights to all men also stimulated significant changes in criminal procedure. A "monster petition" begging the governor to spare the life of a murderer convicted on slight circumstantial evidence and the grim prospect of executing nine Chinese men found guilty of murder fueled a passionate debate about the death penalty in the decade before World War I. The trials and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti focused unwanted international and national attention on Massachusetts. This was a turningpoint. Sara Ehrmann took charge of the newly formed Massachusetts Council Against the Death Penalty, relentlessly lobbied the legislature, and convinced a string of governors not to sign death warrants. In the 1970s the focus shifted to the courts, and eventually, in 1980, the Supreme Judicial Court abolished the death penalty on the grounds that it violated the Massachusetts Constitution.
  

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Contents

MURDER AND DUE PROCEEDING IN COLONIAL MASSACHUSETTS
1
HIDEOUS CONSEQUENCES AND THE DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
39
UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH THE FIRST EFFORT TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY
79
THE MONSTER PETITION
106
A LONG WAR AND THE SECOND EFFORT TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY
137
SACCO AND VANZETTI
169
THE INSANITY DEFENSE
208
THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY AND CRIMINAL DISCOVERY
251
CONFESSION NEITHER FEAR NOR FAVOR
273
THE RIGHT OF THE ACCUSED TO AN IMPARTIAL JURY
296
SUCCESSAT LONG LAST
330
THE ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
355
AFTER ABOLITION
397
NOTES
407
INDEX
490
Copyright

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Page 29 - Labourer, not having the fear of God before their Eyes but being moved and Seduced by the instigation of the Devil...
Page 31 - Honors, and you, Gentlemen of the Jury. I am for the prisoners at the bar, and shall apologize for it only in the words of the Marquis Beccaria: " If I can but be the instrument of preserving one life, his blessing and tears of transport shall be a sufficient consolation to me, for the contempt of all mankind.

About the author (2008)

Alan Rogers holds the post of Special Professor of Adult Education in the School of Continuing Education of the University of Nottingham. He has been engaged in adult education in both community and academic contexts for nearly forty years. He served as Executive Director of Education for Development based at the University of Reading for thirteen years, retiring from that post in 1998 to freelance as an adult trainer.

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