The state House of Representatives voted 86-62 Wednesday to repeal the death penalty after a debate that lasted more than nine hours. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy immediately renewed his promise to sign the repeal bill.
"This has been a long and difficult struggle. Two years ago we finally saw repeal pass through both houses of the legislature, only to be vetoed by M. Jodi Rell, who was then the governor," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "Over those two years it has become increasingly apparent, even to some of those who have long supported capital punishment, that we must end a harsh and mistake-prone system that has never been applied rationally or fairly. The day that Gov. Malloy signs this bill will be a historic one for Connecticut and for justice."
The state Senate passed repeal last week in a 20-16 vote. The bill approved by both houses is prospective, meaning that the 11 men on the state's death row will remain there but no new convictions can result in the death penalty. Those convicted of murder with special circumstances will be imprisoned for life, without the possibility of parole.
During Wednesday's long debate, legislators turned back more than a dozen attempts to amend or modify the bill. Many legislators on both sides of the issue said they reflected long and hard before reaching a decision. State Rep. Linda Gentile, a Democrat from Ansonia who previously supported the death penalty, explained why she changed her mind and voted for repeal: "Killing is just plain wrong, whether it's done by a criminal or by the state in the name of justice."
The ACLU of Connecticut has worked for decades with other organizations, including churches and civil rights groups, to end capital punishment. Connecticut now joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia that have repealed the death penalty.
"By abolishing the death penalty, the state of Connecticut will abolish an undeniably racist form of punishment and free itself from the danger of executing innocent people," said Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "The people of this state will know that the ultimate injustice will not be perpetrated in their names."
-- April 12, 2012