Chafee death penalty controversy ends with a whimper

Jul 26, 2013

The death penalty contretemps between Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the usual gang of talk show babblers and assorted right-wing nuts has ended with a raft of sound and fury…signifying not much.

Citing Rhode Island’s long tradition of opposition to the death penalty, Chafee argued against the death penalty for Jason Wayne Pleau, who in 2010 robbed, shot and killed David Main, the manager of a Woonsocket gas station.

Chafee initially refused to hand Pleau over to federal law enforcement authorities because of the state’s long opposition to death penalty, which has not been used in the Ocean State since the 19th Century. But the U.S. Supreme Court declined the state’s request to review whether the state had the authority to keep Pleau in state jurisdiction.

In the end, Pleau, 35, agreed to plead guilty and accept a life sentence and U.S. Attorney Peter Nehrona withdrew his attempt to seek a death sentence against Pleau.

``My thoughts are with Mr. Main’s family,’’ said Chafee in a statement released Friday afternoon. ``The case today reached a conclusion and Mr. Main’s family can begin the long healing process. A life sentence is the appropriate punishment for this brutal crime and respects Rhode Island’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty.’’