Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty on the House floor, the Boston Globe reported (March 10, 1927, p. 19).
Birmingham said repealing the death penalty was a matter of paramount importance. It was not a question of condoning crime; in fact, he favored swift and severe punishment for those found guilty.
He opposed any sentence that could not be revoked. He also questioned whether the death penalty had a deterrent effect on criminals.
Birmingham accused the state of being responsible for three murders in the car barn murder case. In that case, John J. Devereaux, John J. McLaughlin, and Edward J. Heinlein were convicted in the murder of James H. Ferneau, a watchman on duty at the Boston and Middlesex Street Railway office in Waltham, during a 1925 robbery, and put to death.
Birmingham opined that if they had been granted a new trial, they would have been found guilty of second degree murder only and likely would have received a life sentence.
Rep. William H. Hearn of Boston moved to substitute a bill that would put the question of whether capital punishment should be abolished on the ballot at the next annual election. He said that voters should be able to express their opinion on the issue. He stressed that he would not vote for a bill abolishing the death penalty without the referendum.
Rep. Thomas R. Bateman of Winchester raised a point of order that the Hearn amendment was beyond the scope of the petition. Rep. Louis L. Green of Cambridge moved postponement of further consideration to the end of the calendar year. The newspaper said the issue would probably be debated on March 10.
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