The following are statements made by CT organizations on the decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision to overturn the death penalty in the state:
Gov. Dannel Malloy
“In 2012, Connecticut joined 16 other states and the majority of the industrialized world in replacing capital punishment with the punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since then, two additional states have abolished capital punishment. When Connecticut’s law was passed, it did not apply to the 11 inmates currently serving on death row. We will continue to look to the judicial system for additional guidance on this rule. But it’s clear that those currently serving on death row will serve the rest of their life in a Department of Corrections facility with no possibility of ever obtaining freedom.
“In the last 54 years, Connecticut has only executed two inmates, both of whom volunteered for the execution. Many on death row are able to take advantage of endless appeals that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and give those convicted killers an undeserved platform for public attention.
“Capital punishment is a difficult issue that is deeply personal for many Connecticut residents. I arrived at my opposition to capital punishment after careful thought and through many years of experience in the criminal justice system, first as a prosecutor and then as an attorney and public servant.
“Everyone arrives at their position on this difficult issue on their own terms, and everyone should have respect for differing opinions on what is a difficult and moral issue for both sides.
“Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members. My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day.”
Dr. William Petit
"Regarding today's opinion released by the Connecticut Supreme Court on the death penalty in Connecticut, 'The dissenting justices clearly state how the four members of the majority have disregarded keystones of our governmental structure such as the separation of powers and the role of judicial precedent to reach the decision they hand down today. The death penalty and its application is a highly charged topic with profound emotional impact, particularly on the victims and their loved ones. Justice Espinosa, in her dissent especially, forcefully and compassionately recognizes that devastating impact'."
Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty
Since its founding in 1986, the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty has supported complete repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty. CNADP welcomes today’s Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, which takes the prudent step of ending the state’s failed death penalty and the possibility of any future executions.
In response to a large coalition of Connecticut faith leaders, murder victims’ families, civil rights leaders, law enforcement experts, and legal scholars, the Connecticut General Assembly in 2012 took a significant step toward ending the state’s death penalty by repealing it prospectively. This legislation, however, left in place those already on Connecticut’s death row, and thus the remnants of a broken system. With death sentences still in effect, Connecticut continued to face some of the persistent problems plaguing capital punishment, such as its long and difficult appeals process and high costs.
Today’s ruling ensures that the state can move beyond this flawed policy. “I am deeply thankful for the Court’s ruling,” said Sr. Mary Healy of West Hartford. “As a clinical therapist and family of a murder victim, I’ve seen up close the devastating effects that the death penalty and its prolonged legal process can have on families already struggling with tragedy of losing a loved one. Throughout its history, the death penalty in Connecticut has failed murder victims’ families.”
Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean of New Haven echoed this view: “The state took a step forward today by ending a policy marked by ineffectiveness and injustice. Troubling racial disparities proved to be an unavoidable aspect of Connecticut’s death penalty. Furthermore, for myself and dozens of other murder victims’ family members, we recognized that the death penalty did not help us. Moving forward, hopefully the state will focus on making sure murder victims’ families receive the support and services they need.”
As a result of today’s ruling, Connecticut will avoid the costs and challenges that other states have faced in trying to procure lethal injection drugs that increasingly are difficult to obtain. “From the perspective of law enforcement,” said Ridgefield Police Commissioner Dr. George Kain, “this ruling eliminates the distraction of the death penalty, allowing us to focus on measures that actual reduce crime. Fortunately, Connecticut will not follow the path of some other states in wasting time and taxpayer dollars in futile efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs or design other execution protocols.”
The Connecticut Supreme Court striking down the death penalty is part of a larger trend nationally against the practice. Seven states in the last decade have repealed the death penalty, including the red state of Nebraska earlier this year. Four other states have enacted moratoria on executions.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano
“Today Connecticut’s Supreme Court stepped way out of line and wrongfully took on the role of policymakers. Their ruling deliberately circumvented the will of the people and the legislators who represent each and every Connecticut resident.
“If the court rejected the death penalty repeal legislation based on an argument that it violated equal protection by creating a separate class of citizens, the remedy should rightly be to strike it down, which would leave us with the death penalty intact per prior law. Instead, the activist court chose to act as policymaker and expand the repeal beyond what was approved by state lawmakers. I agree with Justice Espinosa’s dissent. This court has overstepped its constitutional obligations and allowed personal interpretations of what some may think are just and fair to overshadow the law as defined and enacted by the people.
“Multiple lawmakers never would have voted in support of repealing the death penalty if the legislation was retroactive. Edith Prague, for example, said in 2012, ‘I couldn't live with myself if repeal got Komisarjevsky and Hayes to win an appeal to have their death penalties reversed.’
“I, alongside Sen. John McKinney, warned that this would happen when we voted against this legislation. But warnings were ignored as Democrat leaders assured lawmakers on the fence that the legislation repealing the death penalty would be prospective only.
“In 2012, Governor Malloy stated: ‘What I've said is any legislation that I would sign would be prospective, it would be out into the future…I've guaranteed that it would be drafted in such a way as to guarantee that these two individuals -- if we ever had a workable death penalty -- would be put to death, if that's the sentence of the jury.’ But that is no longer the case today. Had lawmakers foreseen today’s ruling, the legislation repealing the death penalty would have lacked the support needed to pass in the first place.”
U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty
“I commend the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to abolish the death penalty once and for all. I believe the harshest penalty is life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. We are a better country than to allow for a penalty that is imperfectly applied, yet decisively final, a penalty that we know has been handed down against innocent people, disproportionately sought against African Americans at home, and brutally employed by regimes abroad who do not share our values as Americans.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut
The ACLU of Connecticut applauded this morning’s state Supreme Court decision holding that the Connecticut Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment forbids the state from executing any prisoners.
The court declared that following the prospective repeal of the death penalty, execution of prisoners “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any penological purpose.”
The decision means Connecticut may not execute the 11 men currently on death row.
David McGuire, Legislative and Policy Director of the ACLU of Connecticut said, “This decision reflects an evolving norm against the death penalty. There are better ways to punish. Too often, the death penalty is applied arbitrarily and in a racially biased manner. This is a decision that falls on the right side of history.”
The Supreme Court decision settles legislation that prospectively abolished capital punishment for crimes committed after April 25, 2012. The ACLU of Connecticut argued that fundamental fairness prevents the state from unconditionally abolishing the death penalty for all future crimes while continuing to apply it to those who were in prison during its repeal.
The court concluded the death penalty violated the state’s constitution on account of “the freakishness with which the sentence of death is imposed; the rarity with which it is carried out; and the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic biases that likely are inherent in any discretionary death penalty system.”
Dan Barrett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Connecticut said, “This decision is a breath of fresh air in death penalty litigation nationwide because it conclusively determines that the killing of prisoners falls beneath standards of American justice.”
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