Conn. & Death Penalty

April 6, 2012 by staff 

Conn. & Death Penalty, After executing just one prisoner in more than 50 years, Connecticut moved Thursday to become the fifth state in five years to do away with the death penalty for good.

But the repeal wouldn’t be a lifeline for the state’s 11 death row inmates, including two men who killed a woman and two children in a horrifying home invasion supporters touted as a key reason to keep the law on the books. The state Senate debated for hours Thursday about whether the law would reverse those sentences before voting 20-16 to repeal the law.

After the state Senate’s 20-16 Thursday vote to repeal the law, the heavily Democratic state House of Representatives is expected to follow with approval within weeks. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first Democratic governor elected in two decades, has vowed to sign the same bill vetoed by his Republican predecessor.

The wealthy, liberal state is one of the last in the Northeast to have a death penalty law and would join New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York as the most recent to outlaw capital punishment. Repeal proposals are also pending in several other states including Kansas and Kentucky, while an initiative to end the death penalty goes before California voters in November.

Like Connecticut, states that have recently decided to abolish capital punishment were among those that in practice rarely executed inmates. New Jersey, for example, hasn’t executed anyone in more than 40 years; Connecticut’s death row population is more than seven times below the national average.

Death sentences and executions are also plummeting around the country as fewer prosecutors push capital punishment cases, often because of new laws that allow life with no possibility of parole as a sentencing option.

The possibility of executing the innocent, driven by the rise of DNA as a tool to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants, is the biggest overall factor driving states to reconsider capital punishment, said Doug Berman, an Ohio State University law professor.

“That has the most profound and enduring resonance as an argument and one that can never be pushed back,” Berman said.

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