Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state's ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the planned executions of 11 men on death row, thereby abolishing all capital punishment in the state.
The 4-3 decision came three years after the state passed a law that repealed the death penalty but did not spare those already sentenced to die.
"Upon careful consideration of the defendant's claims in light of the governing constitutional principles and Connecticut's unique historical and legal landscape, we are persuaded that, following its prospective abolition, this state's death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose," Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.
"For these reasons, execution of those offenders who committed capital felonies prior to April 25, 2012, would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment," he continued.
The court's decision came in response to an appeal by Eduardo Santiago, a man on death row in Connecticut. While he was represented by public defenders, the ACLU and its Connecticut chapter both filed separate amicus briefs to support his case.
Dan Barrett, legal director for the Connecticut ACLU, told Common Dreams: "We are overjoyed at the ruling, because it once-and-for-all declares that killing prisoners not a part of justice in Connecticut."
The court concluded that the death penalty violates the state's constitution because of: "the freakishness with which the sentence of death is imposed; the rarity with which it is carried out; and the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic biases that likely are inherent in any discretionary death penalty system."