Connecticut Weighs Legislation to Repeal Death Penalty

Earlier in March, hearings were held in Connecticut before the House Judiciary Committee on a bill to replace the death penalty for future crimes with a sentence of life without parole. Many religious leaders, scholars, former death row inmates, and families of murder victims families testified in favor of the bill. Catholic Bishop Peter Rosazza, retired auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford, said, “The death penalty diminishes us all. We cannot teach respect for life by taking a life.” Another witness, Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, pointed to needs that could be met from the money now spent on the death penalty: “[I]t is a costly endeavor to sentence a person to death, given the lengthy appeals process… .You spend more money on the death penalty, you take away money from public safety. … We could solve more rape cases, we could solve more robberies … if we had more money to put into that instead of the death penalty.”

Ray Krone, an Air Force veteran who was released from death row after DNA proved his innocence, cautioned legislators about the fallibility of the justice system and the risk of executing innocent people. “I’m here to tell you those mistakes are going to happen. We’re human.”

The hearings went on for over 12 hours and included some witnesses who supported the death penalty. Legislators are considering a death penalty repeal for the second time in three years. In 2009, both houses passed a repeal bill, but it was vetoed by then-governor M. Jodi Rell. The current governor, Daniel P. Malloy, said he would sign a repeal bill should one reach his desk.

(D. Altimari, “Death Penalty Debated at Capitol,” Hartford Courant, March 7, 2011). See Costs, Victims and Recent Legislative Activity.