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CT Death Penalty Decision: State Joins Most of New England

Death penalty opponents say last week's 4-3 decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court moves the state more in line with Maine and the nation. Credit: CA Corrections.
Death penalty opponents say last week's 4-3 decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court moves the state more in line with Maine and the nation. Credit: CA Corrections.
August 17, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine – Death penalty opponents say last week's Connecticut Supreme Court decision striking down the death penalty moves the state more in line with a growing consensus in New England and the nation.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says the ruling leaves New Hampshire as the only New England state still imposing the death penalty. He says the Connecticut Supreme Court threw out the death penalty because it did not comport with evolving social values, and because it serves no valid purpose.

"There's only been one person executed in New England in the last half century,” Dunham says. “The Northeastern United States, and particularly New England, is more opposed to the death penalty than any other part of the United States."

Critics of the decision accused the court of over-reach. Two of the three dissenting judges argued that the punishment was not out of touch with evolving social values because the people’s representatives wrote the law.

Those critics also say polls show a majority of Connecticut voters still favor the death penalty.

But Shari Silberstein, executive director of Equal Justice USA, says while many people support the punishment in theory, most oppose the way it's applied.

"And what we've found over and over and over again is that theoretically people do say they support the death penalty, but as soon as you start asking questions like, 'Would you prefer life without parole?' Or, 'Do you think it makes sense to repeal it?'” she points out. “Then you start to see majorities saying yes."

Dunham says the court also considered the fact that only one inmate has actually been executed in Connecticut since 1960.

"It was sentencing some people to death, but Connecticut was not carrying it out,” he says. “And Connecticut's reluctance to carry out the death penalty is solidly in line with the views of New England and the Northeastern United States in general."

The decision removes 11 inmates from the state's death row and makes Connecticut the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME