District attorneys from several Massachusetts counties, including Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex and Barnstable, had strong reservations about Governor Mitt Romney’s attempt to establish a nearly “foolproof” death penalty system in the state. Some noted that nothing can eliminate the possibility of human error in such cases. The district attorneys said that the state’s medical examiner’s office and crime labs are currently overwhelmed with work, and that the labs do not have the capacity to add the additional responsibility of carrying out Romney’s plan. “Let’s fix what’s wrong first,” said Barnstable District Attorney Michael O’Keefe. “We’re significantly behind in the Commonwealth in the delivery of forensic services, relative to other jurisdictions.”

The plan was created by an 11-member death penalty commission appointed by Romney, and the commission members note that their recommendations will come with a hefty price-tag. Norfolk County District Attorney William R. Keating estimates that using the standards would cost Massachusetts taxpayers at least $5 million per death penalty case, nearly as much as his entire $6.8 million annual budget that funds approximately 19,000 criminal complaints a year. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said the release of four wrongly convicted or indicted Massachusetts inmates since he took his job in 2002 “has simply convinced me that while technology like DNA is critical in determining one’s guilt or innocence, the administration of justice is a human endeavor, and we’re all fallible.” (Boston Globe, May 4, 2004) See Innocence. Also Read the Commission Report.