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CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Transcript

Location: Unknown



HEADLINE: Gitmo Mystery: Latest Revelation; Terrorists May Target Medicine

GUESTS: Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, Carlos Watson, Candida Royalle, Elvis Mitchell, Ralph Nader, Donald Shepperd, William Livingstone, William Heberer, Bill Lockyer, Mitt Romney, Joe Pantoliano

BYLINE: Anderson Cooper, Jamie McIntyre, Sanjay Gupta, John King, Greg Clarkin, Susan Candiotti, Kelly Wallace, Ed Lavandera, Miguel Marquez, Dan Lothian, Mike Boettcher, Paula Zahn, Richard Quest

Latest revelations from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Then, terrorists may target medicine.

COOPER: And welcome back. Death penalty has been banned in Massachusetts since 1984, but now Republican Governor Mitt Romney is making a push to bring it back. This week, he named a panel of experts to write a death penalty bill that relies heavily on science. Its goal is to write a measure guaranteeing that an innocent person is not executed while at the same time ensuring that those guilty of the worst crimes receive the ultimate penalty.

Paula Zahn spoke with Governor Romney in an exclusive interview.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Sir, how can you guarantee that an innocent person would not be executed?

GOV. MITT ROMNEY ®, MASSACHUSETTS: Well, you know, science is able to point out where innocent people are on death row, and it's able to free innocent people. Science can also identify guilty people. And that's why we have assembled a panel of scientists—not politicians, but scientists and legal professors and so forth to come together and say let's fashion a process and a statute which assures that we're using science, forensic science, we're using it in such a way that we would not in any circumstance execute an innocent person.

ZAHN: But, sir, you would also have to acknowledge in the state of Illinois, that same kind of science determined that there were some 13 men who had been wrongly convicted, and they were ultimately let go.

ROMNEY: We can use, through science and technology, which allows us to determine the ultimate innocence of someone who may have been convicted. In the same way, we can look at a case where there has been a conviction, and where science gives the kind of evidence we need that the individual was in fact the perpetrator of the crime. When we remove the uncertainty, which is normally associated with a conviction, and we hold to a higher standard, a higher evidentiary standard, a matter that would involve the ultimate penalty.

But in cases of terrorism, the most heinous crimes, in cases where obstruction of justice is involved, we would apply that test to assure that those being executed would only be executed if we were virtually certain they had committed the crime.

ZAHN: So let's say that you feel you have that scientific evidence. Are you going to have a problem rejecting a pardon for someone sitting on death row, who maintains his innocence and interprets data, or his defense team interprets data one way and the state interprets it another way?

ROMNEY: Well, we're going to rely on juries, of course, to determine the guilt or innocence of an individual. Then following the assessment of guilt or innocence, we would look and determine is there in this circumstance the kind of hard evidence which guarantees that the verdict that has been reached by the jury is not based upon circumstantial evidence or even eyewitness evidence, but is rather absolutely convincing and compelling. It's incontrovertible evidence that this person perpetrated the crime. And if that's the case and you also have a case of extraordinary brutality, or one which involves the obstruction of justice in our society, such as terrorism, then in that case, you would consider the ultimate penalty.

ZAHN: So the way the system is designed, you don't think it is possible that an innocent person would ever be put to death?

ROMNEY: That's the objective of this panel. And that's why I've called it together. Not people of political backgrounds, but rather people of scientific backgrounds, some of the leading forensic scientists in the nation, some of the leading law professors, a former judge, and others, all coming together to fashion, if you will, in a unique way, not based on old law but on new law, which takes into account DNA evidence and modern technology, to assure that we have a process in place which preserves the rights of our citizens, the rights of those that are accused, and assures that we never in any circumstance imaginable would execute someone who is not actually guilty.

ZAHN: And finally tonight, I'm certain, Governor, you have interfaced with a lot of victims' family members. And I guess what I really want to understand here is the challenge in making these value judgments about which victim of a crime's killer deserves an execution, who doesn't, and how you color those judgments.

ROMNEY: In some cases, the crime is so awful and offends the society in such a way that considering the ultimate penalty is something that we want to be able to do. In cases of terrorism, for instance, in cases of the most brutal murders, where children are involved. In those cases, we want to be able to deter the evil acts of evil men and women, and we believe that a capital punishment statute is something which is necessary to help us do that.

ZAHN: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you very much for your time this evening. Appreciate you dropping by.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.). Formatting Copyright 2003 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.). All rights reserved.

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