The recent 19-17 vote in the Connecticut Senate to abolish the death penalty was made possible by three senators who moved from supporting the death penalty to opposing it. Sen. Gary LeBeau had long favored the death penalty, partly because of “political calculations.” His stance shifted in the last couple of years witnessing a series of high-profile exonerations of innocent people. At 61, LeBeau, a retired schoolteacher, came to view life as a gift, one “we shouldn’t take away from anybody … in the name of the people of Connecticut. It’s not our right to take away a person’s life.” Joining LeBeau’s change of heart were Senators Andrea Stillman and Edith Prague. Prague said, “I always believed if someone was so cruel to take someone else’s life … they deserve it. Then along came Mr. Tillman,” Prague said, referring to James Tillman, an innocent man who served 18 years for a crime before he was exonerated on the basis of new DNA evidence. “I know that the mistake made [was] horrendous,” she said. “My sense is that the justice system makes mistakes.” Sen. Stillman had first voted in support of the death penalty in 1995, but now says, “The world was different then,” and believes her own gradual shift in opinion mirrors that of her constituents. Connecticut’s House voted 90-56 to abolish capital punishment as well, but Governor Jodi Rell has indicated she will veto the bill.

(D. Altimari, “3 Minds Change on Death Penalty, Make Difference,” The Hartford Courant, May 24, 2009). See Recent Legislative Activity and New Voices.