BOSTON (CBS) – The murder of Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon has some Republican lawmakers calling for the death penalty in such cases, and Governor Charlie Baker supports the idea.
“After the death of (Auburn) Officer (Ronald) Tarentino there was outrage and frustration and sadness but unfortunately there was no action,” says Representative Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton.
Now more outrage and more sadness, in the killing of Sgt. Gannon allegedly at the hands of a career criminal. O’Connell says it’s time to send a clear message that Massachusetts protects the men and women who protect everyone else.
“We’re talking about a very small part of the population. Cop killers. The worst criminals among us. If you’re going to kill a cop, we need to send a message you’re going to face that same fate,” said O’Connell.
Governor Baker told WGBH News he’s supported the idea for years, as police put themselves in danger every day.
“There’s really no other job I can think of where you simply don’t know what’s going to happen from one minute to the next. There ought to be a measure in there that reflects that,” Baker said.
Other lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled legislature, including Senate President Harriette Chandler, oppose re-opening the debate. But O’Connell argues life without parole isn’t enough – it’s more dangerous.
“When you kill a cop you go to jail and you’re a hero in that prison. It puts the lives of corrections officers in great danger because these people have nothing to lose. They’re in for life without parole. What’s to stop them from trying to kill a department of corrections officer as well?” O’Connell said.
Massachusetts’ Major City Chiefs of Police Association said after Gannon’s funeral they planned to discuss possible legislation, including the death penalty. Massachusetts last executed someone in 1947.
In 1984 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a death penalty law approved by voters was unconstitutional. In 2013, lawmakers debated but ultimately shelved a proposal to reinstate the punishment after the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.