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June 5, 2009

Governor Rell officially vetoes effort to repeal Connecticut's death penalty

Living up to her promise, Connecticut's Gov. Jodi Rell vetoed legislation that would have abolished the death penalty.  This AP story provides the basics, and her statement on the veto is available at this link. Here are a few excerpts from her statement:

As I have stated previously, I understand and sympathize with the anguish and pain of those families who have lost a loved one due to a cruel and heinous crime. These are the crimes forever embedded in our minds, haunting us long after they have been committed. They cause us to lose our innocence relative to the world around us. The death penalty is, and ought to be, reserved for those who have committed crimes that are revolting to our humanity and civilized society.

The death penalty sends a clear message to those who may contemplate such cold, calculated crimes. We will not tolerate those who have murdered in the most vile, dehumanizing fashion. We should not, will not, abide those who have killed for the sake of killing; to those who have taken a precious life and shattered the lives of many more....

There is no doubt that the death penalty is a deterrent to those who contemplate such monstrous acts. The statistics supporting this fact, however, are not easily tabulated.  How do we count the person who considered the consequences of the crime and walked away?  We cannot, but we know that this occurs. We have a responsibility to act to prevent these heinous crimes and to ensure that criminals will not harm again.

I also take note of the concerns expressed by some regarding the tremendous financial cost to the state, the perception that the death penalty is inconsistently sought for certain crimes, the lengthy appellate process that is involved and the roles that race, gender and economics play when seeking the death penalty.

These very questions, and more, were the basis of a death penalty study commissioned by P.A. 01-151 and analyzed in a comprehensive report submitted to the Legislature on January 8, 2003. The report made significant and thoughtful recommendations that have been largely ignored by the Legislature, including training for public defenders and prosecutors. The goal of the report is to ensure that each decision to seek the death penalty is based upon the facts and law applicable to the case and is set within a framework of consistent and even-handed application of the sentencing laws, with no consideration of arbitrary or impermissible factors such as the defendant’s race, ethnicity or religion.

The co-chairmen of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee have asked that I submit a proposal for “fixing” the death penalty statute. I believe that the current law is workable and effective and I would propose that it not be changed. If the co-chairmen are seeking suggestions, however, I would urge them to review the above-referenced report, which has been largely ignored since its issuance.

June 5, 2009 at 07:31 PM | Permalink


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The idea that the death penalty acts as a deterrent ("We have a responsibility to act to prevent these heinous crimes and to ensure that criminals will not harm again.") has long since been discredited. Life imprisonment without chance of parole does not "abide those who have killed for the sake of killing." LWOP is a grim punishment, one perfectly suitable for such criminals. The death penalty is a relic, a sad reminder that our respect for human rights in the criminal justice arena is on par with the likes of Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia. Gov. Rell is on the wrong side of this issue.

Student (3L)

Posted by: Rob | Jun 5, 2009 10:09:43 PM

I don't know if the death penalty deters more or less than other penalties, but Gov. Rell's rhetoric seems oddly chosen: if the death penalty is really to be reserved for those "cold, calculated" killers, "those who have murdered in the most vile, dehumanizing fashion," "those who have killed for the sake of killing"-- then what is to say that these cold, calculated, vile, dehumanizing, sadistic killers can be deterred by anything? If they are so "vile," in Gov. Rell's words, as to "kill[] for the sake of killing"--not a typial human impulse-- then why can we suppose that the threat of death would deter them? What is the evidence for Gov. Rell's claim that "we know" that there are people "who contemplate such monstrous acts" yet are deterred by the death penalty from carrying out the acts they contemplate? More importantly what is the evidence for Gov. Rell's implicit claim that those individuals are more deterred by the death penalty than they would be by any other punishment?

Posted by: lawstudent | Jun 6, 2009 1:34:00 AM

lawstudent -- The evidence is that, nationwide, when the death penalty is enforced, the murder rate goes way down, and when it is not enforced, the murder rate goes way up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 6, 2009 7:35:43 AM

Bill, can you provide cites to support your "way down" and "way up" claims? Also, does "enforced" mean executions or death sentences? If executions, then how do we explain that murder rates tend to be lower in states without any executions?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 6, 2009 9:29:43 AM

Great to have students here.

Abolition of the death penalty immunizes absolutely all crime after the first murder.

All remedies have a dose-response curve. Below a dose, it does not work. Above another dose, it is toxic. So, before penicillin, 90% of pneumonia patients died. After penicillin, 90% survived. Miracle cure, no? Now give it at 1/100 the dose; do so 7 years after the onset of pneumonia; charge $1 million a treatment; give it to people among whom 20% do not have pneumonia. How does penicillin look as a treatment for pneumonia? Why make penicillin fail intentionally? Do so to make more money from pneumonia care. That is what is going on in the criminal law. Criminal lover lawyers who are criminals themselves intentionally maintain a murder rate of 17,000 a year, with black folks carrying a 6 fold burden of it. To keep their jobs. When sentencing guidelines drop the rate by 40%, end them as mandatory, and watch for the Scalia Bounce. Cool?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 6, 2009 9:38:36 AM

What Doug B is not saying is, those states with fewer murders have fewer black folks. The racist criminal lover lawyer has devalued black murder victims, and has deterred aggressive police protection for black people. All analysis should correct for the racism of the criminal lover death penalty bar.

There is no math here. Do not run away. Only a word math problem.


Black murder victims do not get the justice of the death penalty for their murderers.

They have 6 fold rate of murder, as a result.

The death penalty is most often applied to the murderers of white people in the death penalty belt, in the South. So they have high rates of death penalty, but only for white victims. They also happen to have a high fraction of black citizens in those states. So they have both high death penalty rates, and high murder rates clustered among black murder victims.

Superficially it appears that there is no deterrent effect. However, black murder victims do not get justice from these racist, criminal lover lawyers. The excess of black murder, clustered among young black males, exceeds the number of lynchings by the KKK by an order of magnitude (ten fold or more). Thank the rent seeking, racist, criminal lover lawyer for this mass murder.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 6, 2009 10:05:51 AM

Governor Rell will not be looked kindly upon by history for her act of cowardice in the face of an opportunity to advance human rights.

Posted by: DK | Jun 7, 2009 3:01:54 AM

Thank the lawyer. He immunized this murderous predator. He should have been executed three years ago.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 7, 2009 11:15:10 PM

The problem with the "it's hard to explain why, but we know it's true" argument is that it is not actually an argument. It is more like an assertion that could be used to support any position.

For example, I happen to know that intercellular force-fields are currently protecting me and my loved ones from cancer because we drink wheatgrass juice daily. It is hard to do studies to prove this. (How can we count the cells that could have metastasized, but walked away? We cannot, but we know that this occurs.)

Posted by: Nutmegger | Jun 8, 2009 10:21:29 AM

Doug -- You asked for the support for my claim that when executions are way down, the murder rate goes up, and that when executions are way up, the murder rate goes down.

No problem. The following figures are derived from the BJS website. You and anyone else who cares to can check them out. Here is what they show:

In the late sixties and seventies, the United States had a virtual moratorium on executions. From the end of 1965 through 1980, there were only six of them. Over that same 15-year period, the murder rate DOUBLED. It rose from 5.1 murder victims per 100,000 to 10.2. The number of murders in 1965 was slightly less than 10,000; the number in 1980 was 23,040 -- an increase of somewhat more than 13,000 murder victims.

When the moratorium petered out and executions began again in significant numbers, a very different picture emerged. In the 15-year period from 1991 to 2005 (inclusive), there were 861 executions. In that same period, the murder rate dropped from 9.8 to 5.5 -- a decrease of 44%. The number of murder victims decreased from 24,700 to about 16,200. In other words, with the end of the moratorium and the resumption of executions, there were more than 8000 fewer murder victims in a single year.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 8, 2009 11:33:25 AM

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