Death penalty is minor issue in governor's race

Death penalty cases are always emotional, and executions are not frequent. Rhode Island doesn't have a death penalty and most of the candidates for governor say they don't want one.

The Boston Marathon bombing last year killed three people and wounded hundreds. It reverberated across the nation, and the federal government's decision to seek the death penalty against the one surviving bomber will be a national story.

Massachusetts has no death penalty, and its last execution was more than 60 years ago. Rhode Island also has no death penalty. That became an issue in 2011 when Gov. Lincoln Chafee tried to prevent federal authorities from taking accused murderer Jason Pleau into custody. The federal government eventually won jurisdiction, but accepted a plea from Pleau and he is serving life without parole.

NBC 10 asked the current candidates for Rhode Island governor where they stand on the issue.

"I am totally opposed to the death penalty," General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, said Friday on a taping of "10 News Conference."

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also is opposed to the death penalty. NBC 10 was unable to reach Democrats Clay Pell and Todd Giroux.

As for the Republican candidates, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said he would like to see the death penalty restored, citing his experience as a prosecutor.

Republican Ken Block has promised to keep his campaign away from social issues. He said if there was a death penalty he would support it, and since there isn't one, he won't.

It is not likely Block will have to make a choice if he is elected governor. In recent years, the legislature has shown little eagerness to restore a death penalty. Though several bills have been introduced for specific crimes, none has made much progress.

That's why the death penalty issue really has little role in the governor's race. It was Chafee who elevated the topic. Besides the battle over Pleau, he pardoned John Gordon, the last man executed in Rhode Island for a murder in 1845.