Connecticut becomes 17th state to abolish death penalty

By David Ariosto, CNN
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012

(CNN) — Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a
bill into law Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty, making his
state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth
in five years to usher in a repeal.

The law is effective
immediately, though prospective in nature, meaning that it would not
apply to those already sentenced to death. It replaces the death penalty
with life in prison without the possibility of release as the state’s
highest form of punishment.
“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,” Malloy said in a statement.
He added that the “unworkability” of Connecticut’s death penalty law was a contributing factor in his decision.
“In the last 52 years,
only two people have been put to death in Connecticut — and both of
them volunteered for it,” Malloy said. “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.”
This month, lawmakers in
the state’s House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 86 to
63. The state Senate had approved it a week before.
State lawmakers first tried to pass a similar bill in 2009 but were ultimately blocked by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican.
Capital punishment has
existed in the Nutmeg State since its colonial days. But it was forced
to review its death penalty laws beginning in 1972, when a Supreme Court
decision required greater consistency in its application.
A moratorium was then imposed until a 1976 decision by the high court upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment.
Since then, Connecticut
juries have handed down 15 death sentences. Of those, only one person
has been executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a
nonpartisan group that studies death penalty laws.
Michael Ross, a convicted serial killer, was put to death by lethal injection in 2005 after he voluntarily gave up his appeals.
The state now has 11 people on death row.
Advocates of a repeal
say that Connecticut’s past law kept inmates — who were often engaged
in multiple appeals — on death row for extended periods of time,
costing taxpayers far more than if the convicts were serving a life
sentence in the general prison population.
They also point to
instances in which wrongful convictions have been overturned with new
investigative methods, including forensic testing.
Opponents of the repeal
had said that capital punishment is a criminal deterrent that offers
justice for victims and their families.
In the last five years,
New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death
penalty. California voters will decide the issue in November.

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