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March 15, 2012

Despite increased public support, Connecticut legislature again discussing death penalty repeal

215044780-14174705As reported in this local article, for the third time in as many years, the legislature in Connecticut is in the midst of debating repeal of the state's death penalty.  Here is how the article begins:

For the third time since 2009, the legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday pondered the fate of Connecticut's death penalty, but those who want to abolish capital punishment believe this may be their year.

"I think there's a real sense of urgency," Ben Jones, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Wednesday evening, about eight hours into a hearing on the topic. "We debated this so often, we just need to seal the deal."

Jones noted that this year, the two Democratic Senate leaders, President Pro Tem Donald Williams of Brooklyn and Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven, were among the first to testify in support of the bill, which would replace the death penalty with life in prison with no possibility of release. And, he said, the NAACP is also making a big push for repeal.

The emotional topic of repealing the state's death penalty drew large crowds to the state Capitol complex but the one individual whose pro-death penalty view has dominated the debate in recent years did not attend. Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of a horrific home invasion in Cheshire in 2007, has been a familiar presence at past legislative hearings on the topic, but this time, neither Petit nor his sister, Johanna Petit Chapman, was present.

"We firmly believe that the death penalty is the appropriate sanction in certain heinous, cruel and depraved crimes,'' Chapman wrote in an email to reporters. "Let us take the 'c' word out of the discussion. There is no such thing as 'closure' when your loved one is savagely taken from you. There can, however, be adequate and just punishment and that is the death penalty."

The Cheshire case has loomed over the death penalty debate. Last year, a similar bill cleared the committee but did not come up for a vote in the House or Senate after two key Democratic senators pulled their support, citing the ongoing trial of one of the men accused in the Petit killings. Since then, both suspects in the case have been convicted and sentenced to death.

The death penalty bill is "prospective" in nature, meaning it would not apply to the 11 men on Connecticut's death row. Several experts testified that defense attorneys would use abolition of capital punishment to preserve the lives of those currently sentenced to death.

However, a review by the Quinnipiac University School of Law Civil Justice Clinic found that appeals brought by defense lawyers after the death penalty is abolished are not necessarily upheld. After lawmakers in New Mexico banned the death penalty for all new crimes in 2009, a death row inmate appealed his sentence, arguing that once capital punishment has been repealed, it should be repealed for all, regardless of when the crime was committed. A judge in New Mexico rejected that argument.

Sen. John Kissel, a Republican from Enfield, whose district includes several prisons, asked what would happen to those who commit capital felony crimes in the future if capital punishment were replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole. He said he wants to make sure such prisoners remain segregated from the general prison population and given no perks if the death penalty is repealed.

March 15, 2012 at 09:59 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Interesting graphic, juxtaposing popular "Support" versus "Deterrence"
as though the ignorant, unscientific American public is refuted again.

Ah, but the "Deterrence" chart represents the "belie[f]" of the "country's
top academic criminological societies". Hopefully their beliefs are purely
professional as opposed to personal, but I doubt it with good reason.

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 16, 2012 1:29:24 PM

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