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CT Death Penalty Ruling: Could be "Persuasive" in Granite State

Death penalty opponents say last week's 4-3 decision abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut could impact the ongoing debate over capital punishment in New Hampshire. Credit: CA Corrections via Flckr
Death penalty opponents say last week's 4-3 decision abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut could impact the ongoing debate over capital punishment in New Hampshire. Credit: CA Corrections via Flckr
August 17, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. – The death penalty in Connecticut was just knocked down, and death penalty opponents say that ruling could have an impact on New Hampshire's ongoing debate over capital punishment.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says New Hampshire has come close to passing legislation abolishing the death penalty in recent years, and the 4-3 decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court could add to that momentum.

He says the court found the punishment does not comport with evolving social values, and it serves no valid purpose.

"The reasoning of the court may be very persuasive to its neighbors in New Hampshire, and could have significance in that state's efforts to repeal the death penalty," he stresses.

Critics of the decision accuse 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.

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

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?' then you start to see majorities saying yes," she points out.

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 stresses. “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 - NH