REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE
TITLE OF BILL:
AN ACT CONCERNING MURDER WITH SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, 27th Dist.
REASONS FOR BILL:
To eliminate the death penalty and replace that sentence with life without possibility of parole.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
PROVIDING INFORMATION, NO POSITION STATED:
James Wade, Attorney, Hartford – Last year the legislature delegated authority to commute sentences to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. “When you delegated the authority, you said, under the statutes, [to the Board of Pardons and Paroles] come back to us with a set of rules. They haven’t done that, so you’ve got all this fuzzy stuff out there. If we’re going to kill them, we’re going to kill them. In an ethical society, we should do it by some set of rules. For example, what are the criteria for commutation? Is it totally subjective?” The Board of Pardons and Paroles is supposed to report to the legislature when considering commutation applications, but it is not doing so.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Robert Nave, Amnesty International and Executive Director, Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty – Morally, “we should not kill people to prove that killing people is wrong...It is proven through FBI statistics that the death penalty does not deter crime. In fact, in states that do not have the death penalty or do not use the death penalty, murder rates are lower than in states that have and use the death penalty. Additionally, those states that still use the death penalty have seen increasing murder rates whereas the states that don’t use the death penalty or do not have the death penalty have seen dropping murder rates. The death penalty is far more costly to prosecute than non death penalty cases...Capital punishment is rejected around the world. Thirty years ago, about 120 nations used capital punishment. Today, about 20 nations use capital punishment...38 states still have this law on the books, [though] several don’t use it, like New Hampshire, where there is no death row or death chamber, making Connecticut the only state in New England to pursue the practice of ritual killing.” Finally, there is also the racial, economic and geographic disparity in the application of this law.
Emmanuel Margolis, CT American Civil Liberties Union – In Illinois, “Governor Ryan established a high-profile bi-partisan commission with the mission of creating a death penalty system where he could be sure that no innocent person would be executed. The Commission met for two years and made a detailed report including over 185 recommendations on how to improve the death penalty in Illinois but ultimately determined that the only way to make sure that an innocent person is not executed is to abolish the death penalty.”
“The most recent race study conducted by University of Maryland Professor Ray Paternoster found that the probability that a state’s attorney will seek the death penalty is 1.6 times higher when the victim is white than for a black homicide victim. Blacks who kill whites are 2.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death than whites who kill whites, and 3.5 times more likely than blacks who kill blacks.”
Sherwood Anderson, Former Chair, Human Rights and Responsibilities Section, CT Bar Assn., New Britain – Since 1973, 117 people in the U.S. have been released from death row and exonerated of capital felony charges. Thousands of others have had their convictions overturned by appellate courts and their cases remanded for retrial for a variety of reasons, including procedural or prejudicial mistakes during trial or ineffective assistance of counsel. The death penalty diverts resources and energies from efforts to defeat violent crime.
Lawrence Adams, Boston, MA – “I was sentenced to death by electrocution in 1974. Even though I knew I was innocent of all charges, nevertheless, I was found [guilty] by a jury of my peers, and I was sentenced...The Supreme Court of Massachusetts upheld the decision. I did 32 years before I was finally exonerated of the charges. It was the death penalty being abolished that probably saved my life. It allowed me the time and opportunity to prove my innocence, to have my lawyer find different materials that were never produced before...It’s been proven that those who can afford attorneys have a better chance.”
John Cummings, President, CT Network to Abolish the Death Penalty – “The death penalty allows, through jury qualifications, only those jurors who are willing to participate in killing the killer. Many potential jurors are not allowed to participate because of their ethical and religious principles. This skews the record.”
Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International – Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the crime. “The death penalty will not resolve any of the real problems associated with crime and the criminal justice systems and instead serves to brutalize society...[the death penalty] is the ultimate violation of human rights.” 118 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. “It is an unsettling fact that the four countries that accounted for 84% of recorded judicial executions in 2003 are the United States, China, Iran, and Viet Nam.”
Michael E. Festa, Massachusetts State Representative, 32nd District – “My experience as a district attorney convinced me that it was all too easy to convict innocent people.”
Richard Tulisano – It does not matter what district a murder is prosecuted in, but the differences between sentencing in districts reveals the problem of “subjectivity that is involved in the imposition of the death penalty all along, whether it be the issue to withhold or not to go down certain ways for evidence purposes, when the police are investigating a crime.” Since the determination of sentencing will ultimately be decided by whichever group of 12 people that happen to be on the jury, how can this penalty ever be applied fairly, justly, and equally?
Kathryn L. Halliday, South Glastonbury – “The death penalty directly violates numerous international documents and agreements that have been ratified and/or implemented in the United States” such as several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “In 1993 the International War Crimes Tribunal declared that the death penalty is not an option, even for the most heinous crimes.”
Bishop Peter Rosazza, CT Catholic Conference – Our organization has already gathered 37,957 signatures on a statewide petition to abolish the death penalty.
Sister Suzanne Gross, Program Coordinator, Pro-Life Ministry, Archdiocese of Hartford, Meriden – “We argue in favor of the preservation of life even when that life is guilty of terrible behavior...We believe that the death penalty violates the consistent life ethic that is held by our Church- the value and inviolability of every human life is deserving of protection.”
Pastor Walter H. Everett, United Methodist Church of Hartford – Is the father of a murder victim. Massachusetts has a two-tier system of sentencing, “1. life, with the possibility of parole and 2. natural life, in which the offender can never be paroled.”
Elizabeth Brancato, Torrington – Is a survivor of homicide. “It is the end of the process that brings closure [for victims], not the death of the murderer.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, 29th District – Society tolerates the racial, economic and geographic inequity and discrimination that plague the criminal justice system, but how can we tolerate them when the penalty is death?
Sally Joughlin, New Haven – “It is not appropriate to base public policy on emotional desires for retribution (there being no other rational reason to execute people).”
Sister Carol Duffy, Sisters of Mercy – “Twenty-five countries of the European Union begged Governor Rell to intervene and prevent the impending execution.” The truly civilized nations of the world are abolishing the death penalty. The United States stands behind only China and Iran in the number of executions it carries out. What company do we want to keep?”
Joan Cavanagh, New Haven – “Death is an immutable fact of life. Murder is not...The truth is that the murder by the state of one of its own citizens is not sane, legal, or noble- it’s just murder...To strap Michael Ross or anyone else to a gurney and inject them with lethal chemicals, turning a living body into garbage, is as sick, bizarre, and horrible as what Michael Ross did to his victims when in the throes of his mental illness.”
Dr. Gail Southard Canzano, Ph.D., West Hartford – “Had Mr. Ross been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release, this (the current process) would have been over 18 years ago.”
Amy Harris, Burlington – “As the world commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, German citizens could not believe that their government would kill them. I thought of the victims, their families and survivors, and the horror of it all. Then I thought how ironic that two days later our own government was trying to deliberately, chemically kill someone.”
Rev. Andrew D. Smith, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, Hartford – “Experience has shown that executing a person convicted of crime may satisfy an individual’s or society’s desire for revenge. But our criminal justice system is not designed to be an instrument for revenge.”
Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Waterbury – The legislature has not considered any of the recommendations from the Death Penalty Review Commission. The commission found geographical disparity and racial discrimination in the application of the death penalty. “A criminal justice system desperate for funds, in the area of substance abuse treatment, mental health resources, forensic science funding, law enforcement personnel, etc., should spend its money where it does the most good, not the supreme harm.”
Senator Martin Looney, 11th District – “The State, as a fallible institution, should not have the power to take a human life and to act with hubris and arrogance when humility and restraint should prevail.” “Prosecutorial discretion [has] led to a disproportionate number of people being sentenced to death in certain judicial districts. Such disparities are indicative of an arbitrary and capricious system.”
United Nations Association of Greater New Haven, Hamden – “More than half the nations in the world have abolished the death penalty, including all the developed nations except the U.S..” “The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights.”
Graziella Zinn, Office of Urban Affairs, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, New Haven – “It is profoundly disturbing when a fatal injection cuts off forever any possibility of regret, remorse, rehabilitation and, most of all, conversion of another fellow human being. Human life is a gift from God that must be respected from conception to natural death.” “If the main motivation for imposing the death penalty is to make living in Connecticut safer, we should be more concerned with preventing crimes than executing criminals who are already safely behind bars and not walking our streets.”
Rev. Dr. Thomas Breveridge, United Methodist Church, Pastoral Psychotherapist, and CT Licensed Professional Counselor, Bloomfield – “If you believe as I do, that neurosis is persistence in behavior that does not work, that action has to come before we can feel better, rather than the other way around, and that the System rather than the individual is where problems like this really come from, then the truth becomes abundantly clear: As things now stand, we are seriously, systemically ill. And the only way to cure that is to abolish the death penalty in the State of Connecticut immediately, once and for all.”
Paul Hibbard, Pastor, United Methodist Church of Gaylordsville – “I believe that it is because we recognize that life is a precious gift, and I believe in God’s eyes that each individual life is precious and worth preserving, even if we are unable to recognize that worth ourselves.”
Sisters of Mercy, West Hartford – “Execution is a violent action and no method of execution can be considered humane...Studies have shown that after an execution the rate of homicides in a state frequently rises...The death penalty is disproportionately imposed upon the poor.”
Jill Macari, Action for Justice Network, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc., Bridgeport
– “The death penalty is an outdated and sac religious practice that offers no benefits to our justice system or our society...there is little evidence that it is a deterrent to murder.”
John Stamm, Weston – As a Holocaust survivor, “I would like to remind this committee that my friends who were killed were killed by a legal process. The Nazis may have had to invent the law after they killed someone, but they did everything legal.”
Judy Hyde, Coventry – “If the state continues to permit or require killing, then I would ask you to consider passing a companion law to the existing one, which names the Governor as the executioner in all capital cases.”
Marion Hubbard, Pastor, United Methodist Church – “’Thou shall not kill.’ No where does it state with exceptions.”
Tonya McClary, Esq., National Director of Criminal Justice, American Foreign Service Committee – As a criminal defense lawyer, “ I am speaking as an attorney who has actually had to follow a client to execution who, I feel to this very day, was an innocent man that a state put to death. I am representing a client right now where I had to have a very sobering talk with him in December. I looked this man, this human being, in his face and said to him, ‘I believe that you’re innocent. The rest of our team believes that you’re innocent, but I am so afraid that we can never prove that.’ People talk about all the appeals, all the appeals, but what people don’t realize is that a lot of times when you get to the appeals in the later stages, those courts aren’t reviewing any evidence.”
The death penalty in the United States creates two sets of victims; the person put to death and the loved ones of that person.
Mike Fitzpatrick, President, Criminal Defense Lawyers Association – “If you want to end the suffering of the victims, the quickest way to do that is to abolish capital punishment. Having done that, Michael Ross would have lost his voice in the press and everywhere else 15 years ago. The victims would not be continuing to suffer this emotional roller coaster.”
“People say that the polls in Connecticut support the death penalty. Well, that is not entirely true. As you all know, it depends on how the question is phrased. I will tell you this. I think it’s time to put polls aside and look at what our actual practices have been. Simply put, the death-penalty experiment in Connecticut has failed.”
Allyson D. Platt, Stafford Springs
Gordon A. Martin, Judge, Massachusetts Trial Court
David Ehrmann, Chairman & President, Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty
Rebecca Michel, Wallingford
Clare Hogenauer, Esq., New York, New York
Mary Lou Peters, Windsor
Elaine Deasy, Sisters of Mercy
Brayton Shanley, Co-Founder, Agape Community
John F. Pfeil, CT Chapter, Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Rabbi Jeff Glickman, Temple Beth Hillel, South Windsor
Rev. Stephen Sidorak Jr., Executive Director, Christian Conference of Connecticut
Arthur McLanahan, Pastor, United Methodist Church of Fairfield
Diane McLanahan, Pastor, United Methodist Church of Shelton
Marjorie Calvert, Clinton
Mary Morgan Wolff, Former Wallingford
Marian Howard, Hartford
Pastor Dennis Calhoun, United Church of Christ, Middlebury
Cindy Moecki, West Hartford
Julie Lewin, Guilford
Dorothy Lovett-Buckley, Hartford
Dade Singapuri, Amherst, MA
Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND, Wilton
Renny Cushing, Executive Director, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights
Claudia Hart, New Britain
Sharon Zaposki, Enfield
Jane Caron, Thomaston
Todd Dewey, Representing the International Socialist Organization, New Haven
Petition: Network to Abolish the Death Penalty
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Paul Ariola, Police Detective, Waterbury – “These people [on death row]…have no compassion. They are not sorry for their sins. They are not sorry that they killed somebody. They are going to try it again. They are going to kill a corrections guard. They’re going to kill a police officer. They’re going to kill people in their own homes at night.”
Helen Williams – Has a son killed in the line of duty as a Waterbury Police Officer. “If you do abolish the death penalty, then what is next? Abolishing life in prison?”