Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Urge CT Gov. Rell to Sign Death Penalty Abolition

Breaking silence for breaking news!  Will death penalty abolition regain momentum?  In 2007,  New Jersey became the first state to legislatively repeal the death penalty since 1976 (NY’s state Supreme Court had struck its dp down as violating the state constitution).  Early this year, New Mexico became the second and several other states had dp abolition bills in process.  It looked as if the movement to abolish the death penalty was gaining real momentum.  But the bill for abolition in Maryland was amended to keep the death penalty but require a higher level proof than in murder cases where the death penalty is not on the table.  In Kansas, the Senate voted for further study and the session ended.  In Montana, the bill was tabled and thus defeated for this session.  In New Hampshire, after the governor promised to veto abolition, it was modified in a fashion similar to Maryland.

Then, last month, it seemed like the best possibility for another victory for abolitionism this year was defeated in Colorado.  Colorado’s bill would have taken money save from abolishing the death penalty and used it to solve cold case murders.  It passed the state House by 1 vote and failed in the state Senate also by one vote.  At least for this year, death penalty abolition seemed to have run aground.

Now, unexpectedly, it may have new momentum.  The state of Connecticut has a death penalty statute, but has never actually executed someone in 48 years.  It has never been part of the “death belt” in this nation.  But Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT), a former prosecutor (who never graduated university and has only honorary degrees), has always supported the death penalty, claiming that some crimes are so heinous as to deserve death.  In her term, CT had its first execution since 1960 in 2005. Given that opposition, it seemed unlikely that CT’s legislature would repeal the death penalty.  Surprises do happen. 

On 13 May, the CT state House passed a bill repealing the death penalty 90-56.  And yesterday, the CT Senate passed abolition, 19-17.  Neither legislative body has enough votes for abolition to override a veto by Gov. Rell and her public comments since yesterday do not sound like she wants to sign it into law. 

CALL Gov. Rell at 1-800-406-1527 or, in CT, 860-566-4840.  Or email her office at governor.rell@ct.gov and urge her to sign this repeal into law. (Be polite.) READERS FROM CONNECTICUT ARE ESPECIALLY URGED TO CONTACT HER AND URGE HER TO SIGN ABOLITION INTO LAW.  Gov. Rell is an Episcopalian and the Episcopal Church has long been opposed to capital punishment.

P.S.  I should say that Gov. Rell is from the dwindling moderate wing of the Republican party.  She is pro-life, but supported civil unions for same-sex marriage.  She instituted a statewide cap and trade system to reduce global warming and streamlined social security disability claims.  She is a major proponent of campaign finance reform and has been known widely for her clean campaigns. She was considered for John McCain’s running mate last year, but his staff thought her too moderate for the GOP base.  She, a Republican, has huge approval ratings in the very Demcratic state of CT.  So, she is no fanatic, but a person of both faith and reason.


May 22, 2009 - Posted by | death penalty


  1. Michael Ross was executed by Connecticut in 2005, I believe. He waived appeals.

    Gov. Rell has vowed to veto the bill, based upon her belief that the death penalty is just for some crimes.

    Comment by dudley sharp | May 22, 2009

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  3. I support a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for first degree mureder.

    Comment by Paul | May 23, 2009

  4. Actually, Dudley, Gov. Rell’s comments just after the senate vote didn’t look promising, but weren’t so negative as to constitute a vow to veto. Also, Gov. Bill Richardson of NM was a lifelong supporter of the death penalty and had promised to veto any repeal, but he signed it anyway. Gov. Rell wants to run for re-election in a state which is increasingly opposed to the death penalty. Letters and phonecalls to politicians DO make a difference.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 24, 2009

  5. MichaeL

    Rell counld not have been more clear.

    “She said she was going to veto the measure as soon as it hits her desk.” paraphrase from reporter

    Rell statement”I also fully understand the anguish and outrage of the families of victims who believe, as I do, that there are certain crimes so heinous — so fundamentally revolting to our humanity — that the death penalty is warranted.”

    Easily confirmed by doing a search on more of Rell’s comments.

    Comment by Dudley Sharp | May 24, 2009

  6. Well, those are stronger words than she used right after the vote. All the more reason to phone and email her, urging her to change her mind.

    Don’t debate her point about people that “deserve to die,” but focus on the possibility of mistakes–lethal mistakes where the state kills innocent people. Life imprisonment allows mistakes to be rectified. The death penalty does not.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 24, 2009

  7. The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents

    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?


    Enhanced Due Process – No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law. Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

    Enhanced Incapacitation – To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers. Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

    Enhanced Deterrence – 16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence. A surprise? No. Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life. Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.

    What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one.

    Enhanced Fear – Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out. Reality paints a very different picture. What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

    This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

    What of that more rational group, the potential murderers who choose not to murder, is it likely that they, like most of us, fear death more than life?

    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

    The False Promise – Part of the anti death penalty deception is that a life sentence, with no possibility of release, is a superior alternative to the death penalty. It’s a lie. History tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc. There are few absolutes with sentencing. But, here are two: the legislature can lessen the sentences of current inmates, retroactively, and the executive branch can lessen any individual sentence, at any time. This has been, actively, pursued, for a number of years, in many states, because of the high cost of life sentences and/or geriatric care, found to be $60,000-$90,000 per year per inmate.

    Innocents released from death row: Some reality – Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking. There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

    In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.

    Comment by Dudley Sharp | May 30, 2009

  8. Years ago I would not be writing to you to have this bill passed, but as time go’s by and I see every day in Hartfoed and New Haven the innocent lives taken over drugs I believe mostly, or kids who get a hold of aweapon and go on a killing spree because they can!! Stiffer penalties would make one think twice, especially if it is used and not held up in the court system. People will see you mean business, and will think twice before they play games. It’s not just getting this bill passed, it is enforcing it.

    Comment by Bonnie | July 6, 2009

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