Connecticut on Verge of Ending Death Penalty in State

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Common Dreams

Connecticut on Verge of Ending Death Penalty in State

House and Senate have passed measure and Gov. has promised to sign

by
Common Dreams staff

File picture shows a death penalty opponent protesting in in Washington, DC. Connecticut's House of Representatives has approved a bill to ban the death penalty that was passed by the state Senate last week and is expected to be signed into law by the governor. (AFP Photo/Alex Wong)

Connecticut's House of Representatives on Wednesday night followed a recent State Senate vote by passing a bill that would end the practice of capital punishment in the state. The measure was approved by a vote of 86 to 62, along mostly partisan lines. Governor Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has promised to sign the bill into law.

"This vote ... allows Connecticut to break with a centuries-old tradition of executing people and rejoin the rest of the Western world, which has long since cut bait with the death penalty,'' Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, who watched the back-and-forth from the House gallery, told the Hartford Courant. "It also moves our nation forward."

By abolishing the death penalty Connecticut joins 16 other states, and the District of Columbia, who have already done so.  However, the bill, due to a political compromise, would still allow for the execution of eleven people already on death row.

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The Hartford Courant: House Votes To Repeal Death Penalty: Measure Awaits Malloy's Signature

The bill, approved by the Senate one week ago, replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release, although it stipulates that the 11 men currently on death row will still face execution; capital punishment would be abolished only for those convicted of capital offenses in the future.

"For decades, we have not had a workable death penalty,'' Malloy said in a statement issued just moments after the 10:57 p.m. vote. "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."

Throughout the lengthy debate, lawmakers publicly struggled with their ethical, legal, political and moral convictions.

"There are many that believe by creating a law that allows us to take a life in exchange for a heinous act of murder ... is somehow protecting society and protecting ourselves,'' House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey said, as the debate wound down. "With due respect to those who feel that way, I have to disagree."

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The New York Times adds:

Thirteen proposed amendments from supporters of capital punishment, most of which would have allowed the death penalty in certain cases, were defeated during the debate, in which many legislators told personal stories of the effects of violent crime. The lawmakers also invoked a wide variety of people, from mass murderers to Immanuel Kant to Sir Thomas More.

State Representative Patricia M. Widlitz, a Democrat from Branford and Guilford, said that like many members, she was torn over her vote. But she recalled a murder in her community and the difficulty residents went through in explaining it to local children. “I just couldn’t reconcile telling them that it’s O.K. for the government to kill after teaching them that killing is wrong, it’s unacceptable, it’s immoral,” she said.

She added that the killer was sentenced to life without parole. “I think in many ways, that is a death sentence, with no chance of parole, no chance of doing anything with your life,” she said.

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