Connecticut has become the 17th state do away with the death penalty after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation on Wednesday to repeal it, effective immediately. He signed the bill at a private ceremony attended by lawmakers, clergy and family members of crime victims.
Capital punishment will now be replaced with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
There are 11 men currently on death row in Connecticut, but Malloy said they were far more likely to die of old age than be put to death.
Malloy, a former prosecutor, said his position on the issue evolved over time.
As a young man, I was a death penalty supporter. Then I spent years as a prosecutor and pursued dangerous felons in court, including murderers, he said. In the trenches of a criminal courtroom, I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect. While it's a good system designed with the highest ideals of our democratic society in mind, like most of human experience, it is subject to the fallibility of those who participate in it.
I saw people who were poorly served by their counsel, he added. I saw people wrongly accused or mistakenly identified. I saw discrimination. In bearing witness to those things, I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed.
He said the unworkability of Connecticut's death penalty law was also another factor that led to his decision.
Malloy said that in the last 52 years, only two people have been put to death in Connecticut. Both volunteered for it, he added.
Instead, the people of this state pay for appeal after appeal, and then watch time and again as defendants are marched in front of the cameras, giving them a platform of public attention they don't deserve, Malloy said. It is sordid attention that rips open never-quite-healed wounds.