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New England News

Connecticut's Top Court Overturns State’s Death Penalty

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Connecticut Supreme Court building

Connecticut's highest court has overturned the death penalty in the state, saying it's unconstitutional.Thursday's ruling means that the 11 men on the state's death row are no longer subject to execution orders. Those inmates include Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were sentenced to death for killing a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

Connecticut passed a law in 2012 to repeal the death penalty, but only for future crimes.

The ruling comes in an appeal from Eduardo Santiago, whose attorneys argued that any execution carried out after repeal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Santiago faced the possibility of lethal injection for a 2000 murder-for-hire killing in West Hartford.

Following the State Supreme Court’s decision, Gov. Dannel Malloy called it “a somber day.”

“Our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members,” Malloy said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."

Gov. Malloy’s full statement follows.

"In 2012, Connecticut joined 16 other states and the majority of the industrialized world in replacing capital punishment with the punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Since then, two additional states have abolished capital punishment.  When Connecticut's law was passed, it did not apply to the 11 inmates currently serving on death row.  We will continue to look to the judicial system for additional guidance on this rule.  But it's clear that those currently serving on death row will serve the rest of their life in a Department of Corrections facility with no possibility of ever obtaining freedom.

"In the last 54 years, Connecticut has only executed two inmates, both of whom volunteered for the execution.  Many on death row are able to take advantage of endless appeals that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and give those convicted killers an undeserved platform for public attention.

"Capital punishment is a difficult issue that is deeply personal for many Connecticut residents.  I arrived at my opposition to capital punishment after careful thought and through many years of experience in the criminal justice system, first as a prosecutor and then as an attorney and public servant.

"Everyone arrives at their position on this difficult issue on their own terms, and everyone should have respect for differing opinions on what is a difficult and moral issue for both sides.

"Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members.  My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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