CT Ruling “Adds Weight” to Growing Anti-Death Penalty Trend
HARTFORD, Conn. – The State Supreme Court's 4 to 3 decision striking down Connecticut's death penalty has been called overreach by critics.
But Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says the court found the punishment violated the constitution in two ways.
First, it does not comport with evolving social values, he points out, and second, it serves no valid purpose.
Dunham adds the decision bolsters an emerging national trend.
"It's significant because Connecticut is now out of the death penalty business altogether,” he states. “That adds more weight to the growing national consensus that the death penalty's time has passed."
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 of the decision 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?' 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.