Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of August 32020

NEWS (8/6/20) — Connecticut: The Connecticut Supreme Court granted a new trial to former death-row prisoner Lazale Ashby. The court ruled that the prosecution had violated Ashby’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel “by using a jailhouse informant … to deliberately elicit certain incriminating statements from the defendant.” The court said that the informant, who had a past history of providing assistance to prosecutors, had been acting as an agent of the state when he extracted incriminating information from Ashby outside the presence of counsel. As a consequence, the court found, the evidence the informant provided was the product of an uncounseled interrogation and therefore was inadmissible.

Connecticut prospectively abolished the death penalty in 2015, and the state supreme court subsequently ruled that applying the repealed statute to those remaining on the state’s death row violated the state constitution. Ashby’s death sentence was vacated as a result of that ruling, and he was resentenced to life without parole on June 20, 2018. However, the abolition of the death penalty did not affect the status of Ashby’s court challenges to the constitutionality of his conviction.