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October 13, 2010

High-profile murders drive even higher broad support in Connecticut for the death penalty

Though all the standard political news and punditry would lead one to believe that most Americans cannot agree on anything, this local story from Connecticut provides another reminder that support for the death penalty often draws lots of support, especially in the wake of a high-profile murder.  The piece is headlined "Support for Conn. death penalty hits 10-year high," and here are excerpts:

Support for Connecticut's death penalty has reached its highest point in more than a decade, and even some who generally oppose capital punishment say it's appropriate for a man convicted in the 2007 deadly Cheshire home invasion, according to a new poll.

Quinnipiac University's poll, released Wednesday, found 65 percent of those surveyed support the death penalty.  That's up from 61 percent two years ago, and the highest number since the year 2000.

It comes as Steven Hayes faces sentencing this month after being convicted of murder, rape and other charges for his part in the 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela.  Prosecutors are asking jurors to send him to death row.

Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack that killed his family and burned down his home, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty.  He wants it imposed against Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, who awaits trial.  

The Quinnipiac poll results show many Connecticut voters share Petit's view about Hayes, whose attorney plans to ask jurors to impose life in prison without parole....  Three of every four people surveyed favored the death penalty for Hayes, with 18 percent against it and 6 percent undecided.  Men were slightly more likely to support it than women.

There are 10 inmates on death row in Connecticut.... The last person executed in Connecticut was serial killer Michael Ross in 2005.

The General Assembly approved a ban in 2009 on imposing the death penalty for future convictions — which would have included Hayes — but not retroactively for death row inmates, whose cases are in various stages of appeals.  Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the ban, saying the state cannot tolerate people who commit particularly heinous murders.

Connecticut hanged inmates until 1937, when it started using the electric chair. It switched to lethal injection in 1995.  The last inmate executed before Ross in 2005 was Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky in 1960.  Taborsky was electrocuted for a string of robberies and killings that left six people dead over four weeks in late 1956 and early 1957.

Quinnipiac's new poll was taken over five days starting Oct. 7, two days after Hayes was convicted in New Haven Superior Court. The survey included 1,721 registered Connecticut voters and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points in either direction.

Though many academics view support for the death penalty to be contensious and controversial, these poll numbers suggest otherwise.  In particular, the fact that 75% of folks in Connecticut favor the death penalty for triple murderer Steven Hayes, while only 18% oppose the death penalty for him suggest that there is more consensus on this issue than just about another other high-profile political or legal issue that is often subject to policy debate. 

Indeed, I cannot think of any other comparable issue in which poll numbers are so strong in one direction, and I encourage readers (especially death penalty abolitionists) to spotlight in the comments whether they can cite to any comparable issue in which the views of the general public are so strong in one direction.

October 13, 2010 at 09:00 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Dear Doc,

You'd make a great bookie. Ever consider transferring to UNLV?

Posted by: Sultan Pepper | Oct 13, 2010 11:00:16 AM

The most interesting thing about this poll is that they ask about support for the death penalty three different ways. The first two have the problem all too common in death penalty polling: implying that the respondent must choose a single penalty for all murders. But this poll also asks the real policy question:

"Which statement comes closest to your point of view? (A) All persons convicted of murder should get the death penalty, (B) No one convicted of murder should get the death penalty, or (C) Whether or not someone convicted of murder gets the death penalty should depend on the circumstances of the case."

A:7; B:14; C:78; duh:1

Post-Woodson, of course, A is not actually available. Presumably everyone who answers A would choose C as their second choice.

Total death penalty support is therefore A+C=85%

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 13, 2010 1:41:27 PM

Doug Berman nails it.

When the specifics of a particular case get known, support for the DP ALWAYS increases. I have never seen that phenomenon fail.

This is also, not coincidentally, why abolitionists refuse any detailed discussion of case specifics.

If the score in a sporting event were 75-18, you'd call it off out of mercy.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 13, 2010 1:44:05 PM

Bill--

As a Cleveland sports fan, I can assure you that a 75-18 score does not invoke the mercy rule.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Oct 13, 2010 2:50:06 PM

Res ipsa --

I was a Phillies fan in my youth (and now). In the old days, they were the worst team in baseball. I think they still hold the record for the longest losing streak in the modern era (23 games, set in August 1961 if I remember correctly). Talk about no mercy! I mean, I was only 13 years old.

It appears, though, that this year (not to mention 2008) my ship is coming in.

For Cleveland, have no fear. LeBron will pull you through.

Oh, wait...................

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 13, 2010 3:44:22 PM

Bill,

You mention that when specifics of cases get mentioned, support for the death penalty always goes up. Do you happen to know if the converse happens when specifics of execution procedure and botched executions get mentioned? Not a pointed question, just curious.

Also, have no fear, Cleveland, the Browns now have the unstoppable force of JAKE DELHOMME under center. They're sure to reach the promised land now.

Posted by: T.O. | Oct 13, 2010 5:30:00 PM

My intutive opinion is that the public at large is less concerned about method of execution than the courts are.

Posted by: ward | Oct 13, 2010 8:32:58 PM

The criminal cult enterprise that has infiltrated and now totally controls our government will always protect the criminal, to generate lawyer jobs.

One will first have to arrest the hierarchy of the most powerful criminal syndicate in history. Try them for an hour, take them wearing tall dunce caps, and summarily shoot them in the basement of the court. The precedent for hanging judges by the dozen was set at Nuremberg. The Nazi Judiciary and Legal Realism are siblings spawned from the German Free Law Movement. Nuremberg ended legal realism in Germany. The same could be done with the mass murderers running our government.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 14, 2010 12:14:30 AM

These judges are horrible, biased, procriminal low lifes. They should be ostracized by all product and service providers and driven from the state.

The same should be done to the lawyer feminized police. The pussies allowed over a half hour to elapse so the murderers could have their way with the girls of the house and to start the fire. The police chief and the head of the SWAT team should resign immediately. There should be zero tolerance for feminism, feminizing, and hobbling of our police. The responsible, pro-criminal lawyers filing prior civil rights complaints should be hunted, have their asses beat, put on the boycott list, and driven out of the state. Any lawyer in local government who restrained the police from their duty, he should get the same. The SWAT policy author who feminized the police response gets the same. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 14, 2010 12:30:36 AM

T.O. --

I don't know the answer to your question. Indeed, I don't know that it's ever been polled. My intuition about it matches ward's: In lethal injection states, which is by far most of them, I doubt there is much interest in execution details. It could well be different where the method is hanging or firing squad.

My condolences on Jake. I have no clue as to how he stays in the league.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 14, 2010 10:34:33 AM

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