Connecticut Weighs Ending Death Penalty

By: Ashby Jones
The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

State senators in Connecticut are slated to vote Wednesday on whether to become the fourth state in recent years to repeal the death penalty.

Senate Democrats say they have enough votes to approve the bill and send it to the state's House of Representatives, where it would widely be expected to pass. Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has said that if presented to him, he would sign the bill into law.

"People have come to recognize that the death penalty is applied in discriminatory fashion, and is a distraction to our criminal justice system," said Senate President Donald Williams, a Democrat. "We'd be much better off without it."

Efforts to repeal the death penalty have been brought before the Connecticut legislature several times in recent years. In 2009, both houses passed a bill that would have ended it, but then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill.

Recently, the move to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut picked up several key supporters in the state Senate after it was made clear that the bill wouldn't apply to the 11 inmates currently on the state's death row.

Among those awaiting execution are Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who were convicted in 2010 and 2011, respectively, of crimes related to the high-profile murder of three members of the Petit family in 2007.

John McKinney, the state's ranking Senate Republican, concedes the bill is likely to pass on Wednesday, despite his and other Republicans' objections. "I believe, and continue to believe, that there are some crimes so heinous and cruel that the death penalty is a just punishment," he said. He also held up Connecticut's law as one of the fairest in the country. "It provides significant protection for those on death row," he said.

Since 1976, Connecticut has executed only one person. In 2005, convicted murderer Michael Ross was executed by lethal injection after giving up his appeals.

Thirty-four states have a death penalty, but that number has fallen in recent years. Since 2007, New Mexico, New Jersey and Illinois have all voted to repeal their death penalties. In 2004, New York's death penalty was declared unconstitutional.