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Globe Editorial

Death penalty: Let R.I. imprison suspect

August 8, 2011

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As the federal government tightens its belt, the US attorney in Rhode Island, Peter Neronha, is trying to launch an unnecessary and costly prosecution. Over the objections of Governor Lincoln Chafee, Neronha is seeking to take federal custody of murder suspect Jason Wayne Pleau, who could face the death penalty if US Attorney General Eric Holder authorizes a capital prosecution. Pleau wants to face justice in Rhode Island, which does not have the death penalty. Indeed, he has already agreed to plead guilty and receive a sentence of life without parole in Rhode Island.

The accusations against Pleau, who allegedly robbed and killed a man outside a bank in Woonsocket, are heinous. But there is no unique interest that requires federal intervention - the normal standard for the Justice Department taking over a case from state prosecutors. The costs of a federal death penalty case can run into millions of dollars. Better to focus those resources on criminals still on the streets, not those who will definitely die behind bars.