Chafee fires back at criticism of his defense of accused killer
In a post yesterday on the politics of crime, I noted how Senator Edward O’Neill of Lincoln has been one of the few people taking pen to paper to criticize Governor Chafee’s attempt to shield accused killer Jason Pleau from the possible use of the death penalty.
Today, Chafee takes to the ProJo’s op-ed page to respond to O’Neill. As I predicted, he defends his position in part by saying it squares with being a fiscal conservative:
Senator O’Neill is seemingly unaware that the costs of trying a federal death-penalty case, in addition to the lengthy appeals process that will inevitably follow the trial, are enormous. The reality of this unfortunate situation is that costs to the taxpayer will be considerable whether Mr. Pleau is tried and incarcerated in Rhode Island or tried and executed by the federal government. Clearly, this is no justification for disregarding a firmly held belief of the people of our state.
Mostly, though, Chafee bases his response on his view that capital punishment is at odds with Rhode Island’s values:
There is no question that the murder of David Main was a senseless act that shocked, saddened and angered the people of the state, including me. I cannot begin to imagine the grief of the Main family, and I extend my deepest sympathy to them for their tragic loss. There is also no question that Jason Wayne Pleau is a career criminal who deserves to answer for his crimes and spend the rest of his life in prison.
But my involvement in this case is not about Mr. Pleau. It is not about the terrible ordeal of the Main family. And it is not about my personal feelings or opinions. It is about maintaining and protecting the sovereignty and laws of the state I was elected to govern.
Leadership requires defending and upholding the public policy of the State of Rhode Island in all cases, not just those where it is easy or convenient. Indeed, it is situations such as this, which are difficult and fraught with emotion, where we must stand up for our state’s core principles. They lose meaning if we are unwilling to do so.