« US total jail population declines again in 2011 | Main | "Medical Marijuana in Colorado and the Future of Marijuana Regulation in the United States" »

April 25, 2012

Connecticut governor signs death penalty repeal into law

As reported in this local article, "Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this afternoon signed the legislature's capital punishment repeal bill, abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut for all but the 11 inmates currently on death row." Here is more:

The legislation passed the state Senate earlier this month on a 20-16 vote, and later the House by a 86 to 62 vote. In place of execution, egregious offenders convicted of "murder with special circumstance" will now face life imprisonment without parole under conditions similar to today's death row.

Malloy's office said he signed the bill in a low-key ceremony with several family members of murder victims. "Although it is an historic moment – Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action – it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration," the governor said in a statement.

A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning found that 62 percent of Connecticut voters in general support the death penalty. However, the surveyed voters were evenly divided on the preferred punishment for a murderer, with 46 percent wanting the death penalty and 46 percent life wanting life imprisonment without parole.

During the House and Senate debate on the bill, opponents raised concerns that the 11 convicts on death row could use the exception-granting language in the repeal bill to get their death sentences commuted. But proponents expressed confidence that the court would respect the legislature's intent to keep the death penalty for those 11.

In his statement today, Malloy said his view on the death penalty "evolved" over time. "As a young man, I was a death penalty supporter," the governor said. "Then I spent years as a prosecutor and pursued dangerous felons in court, including murderers. In the trenches of a criminal courtroom, I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect."

Governor Malloy's full statement concerning his signing of this repeal bill is available at this link, and it ends with this sentence:  "As our state moves beyond this divisive debate, I hope we can all redouble our efforts and common work to improve the fairness and integrity of our criminal justice system, and to minimize its fallibility."

April 25, 2012 at 04:25 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2016765b54188970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Connecticut governor signs death penalty repeal into law:

Comments

"Connecticut joins...the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action."

A point-blank lie.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 25, 2012 4:30:33 PM

Don't hold your breath on those 11 inmates. It will never happen.

Posted by: DaveP | Apr 25, 2012 4:49:39 PM

"Don't hold your breath on those 11 inmates. It will never happen."

To the extent that is caused by this repeal, these Democrats have foisted evil on the victims' families.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 25, 2012 6:14:48 PM

Every pro-death penalty state needs to pass a law that only allows the gov to delay the execution 30 days. Prohibit them from full pardons. Prohibit these liberals from getting into office for one term and throwing out legit sentences of these child rapist killers thus undoing decades of death sentences. I hope Malloy doesn't get a good nights sleep for the rest of his life. Lets hope the good voters of CA make the right decision in Nov.

Posted by: DeanO | Apr 25, 2012 6:17:02 PM

Congratulatons to Governor Malloy on having the courage to sign the bill. His signing statment that follows makes a persuasive case for abolition:


GOV. MALLOY ON SIGNING BILL TO REPEAL CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today released the following statement after signing S.B. 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies:

“This afternoon I signed legislation that will, effective today, replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release as the highest form of legal punishment in Connecticut. Although it is an historic moment – Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action – it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration.

“Many of us who have advocated for this position over the years have said there is a moral component to our opposition to the death penalty. For me, that is certainly the case. But that does not mean – nor should it mean – that we question the morality of those who favor capital punishment. I certainly don’t. I know many people whom I deeply respect, including friends and family, that believe the death penalty is just. In fact, the issue knows no boundaries: not political party, not gender, age, race, or any other demographic. It is, at once, one of the most compelling and vexing issues of our time.

“My position on the appropriateness of the death penalty in our criminal justice system evolved over a long period of time. As a young man, I was a death penalty supporter. Then I spent years as a prosecutor and pursued dangerous felons in court, including murderers. In the trenches of a criminal courtroom, I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect. While it’s a good system designed with the highest ideals of our democratic society in mind, like most of human experience, it is subject to the fallibility of those who participate in it. I saw people who were poorly served by their counsel. I saw people wrongly accused or mistakenly identified. I saw discrimination. In bearing witness to those things, I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed.

“Another factor that led me to today is the ‘unworkability’ of Connecticut’s death penalty law. In the last 52 years, only 2 people have been put to death in Connecticut – and both of them volunteered for it. Instead, the people of this state pay for appeal after appeal, and then watch time and again as defendants are marched in front of the cameras, giving them a platform of public attention they don’t deserve. It is sordid attention that rips open never-quite-healed wounds. The 11 men currently on death row in Connecticut are far more likely to die of old age than they are to be put to death.

“As in past years, the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut has been led by dozens of family members of murder victims, and some of them were present as I signed this legislation today. In the words of one such survivor: ‘Now is the time to start the process of healing, a process that could have been started decades earlier with the finality of a life sentence. We cannot afford to put on hold the lives of these secondary victims. We need to allow them to find a way as early as possible to begin to live again.’ Perhaps that is the most compelling message of all.

“As our state moves beyond this divisive debate, I hope we can all redouble our efforts and common work to improve the fairness and integrity of our criminal justice system, and to minimize its fallibility.”

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 25, 2012 6:21:31 PM

Deano: you don't really mean just 30 days, do you? Consider the folloiwng miscarriages of justice discovered long after the deadline you propose:

Smith v. Cain 132 S.Ct. 627 (2012) (where the eyewit¬ness’s testimony was the only evidence linking Smith to the crime the State’s suppression of his inconsistent statements violat¬ed Brady so first degree murder conviction vacated. ); Cone v. Bell, 129 S.Ct. 1769 (2009) (remand was required, on petition for habeas corpus from Tennessee murder conviction and death sentence for review of the effect of prosecution’s suppression of evidence regarding the seriousness of defendant's drug problem on his sentence); Phillips v. Ornoski, 2012 WL 899634 (9th cir. March 16, 2012) (death penalty vacated because the prosecutor’s deceit regarding the immunity given to a key witness violated Brady and Napue. ); Guzman v. Dept. of Corrections, 663 F.3d 1336 (11th Cir. 2011) (state violated Giglio when its key witness and its lead investigator testified falsely about the existence of a deal between the state and Cronin); U.S. v. Freeman 650 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. ,2011) (mistrial proper where government knew, or should have known witness presented false testimony); Texas v. Morton (Williamson County, Texas No. 86-452-K26) (2011) (just google “Michael Morton”) (Michael Morton exonerated by DNA evidence after 25 years in prison in case in which prosecutors hid Brady evidence); LaCaze v. Leger, 645 F.3d 728 (5th Cir. 2011) (second degree murder conviction and 40-year sentence vacated because prosecution hid from defense and the court that it gave assurance it to its key witness that his son would not be prosecuted for driving him the murder scene); Sivak v. Hardison 658 F.3d 898 (9th Cir. 2011) (prosecutor’s failure to correct informant’s false testimony that he had no deal with prosecution requires vacating of death sentence); Lambert v. Beard, 633 F.3d 126 (3rd Cir. 2011) (murder conviction vacated under Brady where prosecution failed to disclose inconsistent statement of its critical witness that named a person other than the defendant as the killer); U.S. v. Kohring 637 F.3d 895 (9th Cir. 2011) (Withheld evidence that key government witness had allegedly sexually exploited minors was material for purposes of defendant's Brady/Giglio claim warranting reversal of conviction); Johnson v. Florida 44 So.3d 51 (2010) (“The reversal of the death sentences in this case is directly attributable to the misconduct of the original prosecutor. He knowingly presented false testimony and misleading argument to the court…”); William v. Ryan 623 F.3d 1258 (9th Cir. 2010) (case remanded for evidentiary hearing on whether defendant prejudiced where prosecutor suppressed evidence suggesting an alternate person was the perpetrator which is "classic Brady material."); Stanley v. Schriro 598 F.3d 612 (9th Cir. 2010) (“Moreover, the increasing frequency with which innocent people have been vindicated after years of imprisonment counsels a different approach. See Samuel R. Gross et al., Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003, 95 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 523, 523-24 (2004) (noting that from 1989 through 2003 exonerated individuals “spent more than 3,400 years in prison for crimes for which they should never have been convicted . . .”). We note this phenomenon, not to imply that Stanley is innocent, but to emphasize that it is never too late to correct an injustice.”); State ex rel. Engel v. Dormire, 304 S.W. 3d 120 ( Mo. 2010) (kidnapping conviction reversed where state failed to disclose letter suggesting that a prosecution witness had been paid for his testimony); Valdovinos v. McGrath, 598 F.3d 568 (9th Cir. 2010) (murder conviction vacated because "a pattern of non-disclosure permeated the proceedings against [petitioner]" which deprived petitioner of due process.); Robinson v. Mills, 592 F.3d 730 (6th Cir. 2010) (murder conviction vacated where prosecution suppressed material impeachment information concerning its key witness, Sims; namely that that Sims had worked as a paid informant for at least three local and state law enforcement agencies in multiple cases); U.S. v. Johnson 592 F.3d 164 (C.A.D.C.,2010) (conviction for possessing heroin with intent to distribute vacated because of government's failure to disclose evidence that heroin found in defendant's bedroom was actually owned by his cousin); Gonnella v. State, 686 S.E.2d 644 (Ga.,2009) (murder conviction reversed where prosecutor failed to disclose deal with accomplice); Simmons v. Beard, 590 F.3d 223 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose that witness was pressured to cooperate and that a second witness committed perjury); Wilson v. Beard, 589 F.3d 651 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and sentence of death vacated because of prosecutor’s suppression of favorable information regarding witnesses criminal convictions and providing money to witnesses); Montgomery v. Bagley, 581 F.3d 440 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of prosecutor’s failure to disclose exculpatory report from ‘witnesses who would have cast serious doubt on the State’s case.” U.S. v. Price, 566 F.3d 900 (9th Cir. 2009) (conviction reversed where prosecutor violated his due process duty under Brady to learn the results of investigation into criminal past of government witness); U.S. v. Reyes, 577 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2009) (government violated due process by not disclosing favorable evidence discovered in parallel SEC proceedings); Douglas v. Workman, 560 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose promise to key witness); Drake v. Portuondo, 553 F.3d 230 (2d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor knew witness was testifying falsely); Harris v. Lafler, 553 F.3d 1028 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor suppressed promise to key witness); U.S. v. Robinson, 538 F.3d 1265 (10th Cir. 2009)(conviction reversed because of district court’s refusal to disclose informant’s mental health records to defense which violated Due Process); Hayes v. Brown, 399 F.3d 972 (9th Cir. 2005) (prosecutor presented false evidence to jury and failed to later correct the record);

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 25, 2012 6:46:18 PM

Malloy says the people of CT pay for appeal after appeal. I would like him to cite specific cases. How many of the 11 inmates have their direct appeal completed and how many are in postconviction? I know none of them have ever been into federal district court except Ross, who volunteered.

"Unworkability"? Of course.

Posted by: DaveP | Apr 26, 2012 7:04:01 AM

"I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect."

Imperfect? Due to Medieval methodologies, it allows 90% of serious crime to go unanswered. When it has a guy, it is the wrong guy. That wrong guy often confesses, and accepts a plea bargain due to the garbage methodology of the lawyer. It is expensive due to the restriction on punishment of the lawyer client.

If imperfection is a reason to end a practice, all human activity must be stopped. The sole human activity that is actually perfect is lawyer rent seeking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 26, 2012 8:28:23 AM

Bill, other than Japan and India and possibly China, are there other nations you're proud to stand with in your support of state orchestrated killings?

Posted by: John K | Apr 26, 2012 9:04:31 AM

John K --

Other than Timmy McVeigh and John Wayne Gacy and possibly Ted Bundy, are there other killers you're proud to stand with in your support for dumbed down "justice" for the worst of the worst?

P.S. As your post shows (thank you!), Gov. Malloy was indeed telling a point-blank lie when he said that the rest of the industrialized world has abandoned the DP.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2012 9:26:11 AM

Just one observation based on Malloy's statement: This law de jure banning the death penalty is the most over-hyped story out there. Since the state executed a total of two people in the last fifty-two years, passing this law is the functional equivalent of passing a law banning the hunting of dinosaurs.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2012 9:37:48 AM

Billl Otis,

The governor's statement is a forceful argument in favor of abolition of the death penalty--particularly powerful from a long-time former prosecutor:

“My position on the appropriateness of the death penalty in our criminal justice system evolved over a long period of time. As a young man, I was a death penalty supporter. Then I spent years as a prosecutor and pursued dangerous felons in court, including murderers. In the trenches of a criminal courtroom, I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect. While it’s a good system designed with the highest ideals of our democratic society in mind, like most of human experience, it is subject to the fallibility of those who participate in it. I saw people who were poorly served by their counsel. I saw people wrongly accused or mistakenly identified. I saw discrimination. In bearing witness to those things, I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed.

Mr. Levine's list of cases highlighting imperfections and injustices strongly supports the governor's views. I for one am convinced. The death penalty has go to go.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Apr 26, 2012 2:18:22 PM

I join Dave from Texas. Levine's list is scary. I'm switching. No more death penalty!!

Posted by: Peter from Wyoming | Apr 26, 2012 2:29:08 PM

Since we're answering questions with questions, here's another one: Has there ever been a defendant in a capital-murder case who wasn't portrayed by a prosecutor as "the worst of the worst"?

Posted by: John K | Apr 26, 2012 2:30:46 PM

I'm not a lawyer. I've seen Levine's list before, but it just keeps growing longer. This is very distressing. What the heck is going on with the prosecutors? Can't they play fair? Why should we vote for the death penalty, when the prosecutors cheat and hide the ball to get a convicton?

Posted by: Debra | Apr 26, 2012 3:02:20 PM

Bill Otis,

No question that some prosecutors are seriously screwing up--like the ones in Levine's list above, and that news is getting out to jurors. Michael Morton's case is a horror. Number of death verdicts keeps going down even in righteous cases. I don't like it, but that's the way it is. Bad apples hurting the good ones in the barrel.

Texas prosecutor

Posted by: Texas prosecutor | Apr 26, 2012 3:57:07 PM

Conspicuously and revealingly absent from the complaining posts above is a single assertion, much less a single fact, that any of the eleven people still on Connecticut's death row is innocent or that there were any significant procedural flaws in their cases.

The fact of human fallibility is a truism that proves too much. When a person is sent to prison, every day he spends there is gone for good; if he's innocent, the days (or years or decades) don't get tacked on to the end of his life.

Should we therefore abolish imprisonment as well?

And there is the fact that those executed will never do it again, while those not executed can and sometimes have, see, e.g., Clarence Ray Allen, Kenneth MacDuff.

The fact of the matter is that no one has proved to neutral authority that a single innocent person has been executed in the modern era, while we know full well that some killers we legally could have executed but failed to (or failed to in time) killed again, repeatedly. Their victims simply do not count to abolitionists -- I guess they're just "trailer park trash."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2012 6:03:45 PM

John K --

"Since we're answering questions with questions, here's another one: Has there ever been a defendant in a capital-murder case who wasn't portrayed by a prosecutor as 'the worst of the worst'?"

Sure.

As if the prosecutor's portrayal is the problem. There are some who think the killer's behavior is the problem.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2012 6:43:42 PM

Mr. Levine's list is impressive and disturbing. Here is an oldie, but a goodie, that
could be added to the list:
"The grave danger posed to the innocent by the Supreme Court's extension of the
'harmless error' principle to an ever increasing panoply of prosecution related
errors was conclusively proven by the aftermath of its ruling in Arizona v.
Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988). Convicted of the 1983 kidnapping and sexual
assault of a 10 year old boy based solely on the victim's testimony, the Arizona
Court of Appeals reversed Larry Youngblood's conviction in 1986 on the ground
that the failure of the police to preserve semen samples from the victim's body and
clothing that there was substantive reason to believe could have exonerated him,
violated his Due Process right to a fair trial. In 1988 the Supreme Court reversed,
holding that such destruction of material evidence by the prosecution must be
done in "bad faith" to constitute a Due Process violation. The Court's majority
acknowledged that although the actions of the police in Youngblood's case could
be "described as negligent," they didn't act in "bad faith." However, in 2000 a
preserved rectal swab sample taken from the victim containing the attackers semen
was discovered. When subjected to state of the art DNA testing unavailable at the
time of his trial, Mr. Youngblood was excluded as the assailant. Mr. Youngblood's
exoneration, after he had served his prison term, vindicated Justice Blackmun's
concern that the Court was using his case to erroneously expand when destruction
of material evidence by the prosecution was constitutionally permissible: The
Constitution requires that criminal defendants be provided with a fair trial, not
merely a 'good faith' try at a fair trial. Respondent here, by what may have been
nothing more than police ineptitude, was denied the opportunity to present a full
defense. That ineptitude, however, deprived respondent of his guaranteed right to
due process of law....The evidence in this case was far from conclusive, and the
possibility that the evidence denied to respondent would have exonerated him was
not remote. The result is that he was denied a fair trial by the actions of the State,
and consequently was denied due process of law."
The foregoing is quoted from H. Sherrer, The Complicity of Judges in the
Generation of Wrongful Convictions, 30 N. Ky. L.Rev. 539, 569 (2003).

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Apr 27, 2012 11:12:05 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB