Connecticut Abolishes The Death Penalty, Not That It Actually Ever Had One

connecticut governor dan malloyDan Malloy will sign the bill that repeals the death penalty.

Photo: AP

The Connecticut state House of Representatives voted to repeal the death penalty in the state late Wednesday night, clearing the way for Gov. Dannel Malloy to sign the measure. Connecticut is the 17th state to abolish the death penalty, and fifth in the last five years. Then again, Connecticut never really had a death penalty. Not one it carried out, anyway. 

Malloy knows this, as evidenced by his statement issued around 11 p.m. last night. Here it is, per The Hartford Courant:

“For decades, we have not had a workable death penalty. Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience. Let’s throw away the key and have them spend the rest of their natural lives in jail.”

Five decades, in fact. Unlike Texas’ highly effective system, Connecticut has only executed one inmate on death row in the last 50 years. That inmate was also a serial killer who waived all appeals, according to the Courant. In effect, he asked to be put to death. 

Here’s a mind-boggling number, from a column that appeared in the Courant in 2010. Connecticut’s death penalty then cost the state an astounding $5 million per year on average. Sometimes, depending on how cases progressed, it could cost up to $10 million. From the column:

Capital cases total one-tenth of 1 per cent of all criminal cases in Connecticut, but eat up between 5 per cent and 5.5 per cent of the public defender’s budget, [capital defence chief Patrick] Culligan said — at least $2.5 million a year.

And that’s just one little piece of the costs. By the time a murder suspect reaches the death chamber, he will have gone through a litany of trials, retrials and appeals that basically stretches forever.

Connecticut’s new law will not affect the 11 inmates that are currently on death row. They will be put to death — maybe. 

The most infamous of these 11 inmates, of course, are Joshua Komisarjevsky and Stephen Hayes. They were convicted of the heinous murder of a mother and two daughters. William Petit, the father and husband of the victims, survived the brutal home invasion.

It became a story that captivated the state. And it became a story that affected the last time Connecticut nearly passed a death-penalty repeal. Then-Gov. Jodi Rell cited it as a reason she would not repeal. This came after she gave the following statement after the conviction of Stephen Hayes:

“The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities.

“I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.”

This begs the question: Is this really abolishing the death penalty if Connecticut is still going to execute people? And judging from Connecticut’s previous ineffectiveness, it will still be executing people for a long, long time.

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