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State Senator

Eric D. Coleman

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Representing Hartford, Bloomfield & Windsor

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Contact: Dave Steuber

April 14, 2011

Coleman: Death Penalty is Unjust, Antiquated, Inequitable

Senator Eric D. Coleman (D-Hartford), Senate Chairman of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, presided over a public hearing on the death penalty this afternoon, and issued the following statement to share his own views:

“The death penalty is a long-debated topic, and excellent arguments have been offered today on both sides of the issue. Yet in my own view, the time has come for the State of Connecticut to stop issuing such a deeply flawed punishment.

“The death penalty is not applied impartially. Stanford law professor John Donohue studied 34 years of Connecticut death penalty cases, and concluded that, ‘the state’s record of handling death-eligible cases represents a chaotic and unsound criminal justice policy that serves neither deterrence nor retribution . . . . arbitrariness and discrimination are defining features of the state’s capital punishment regime.’

“The death penalty is not blind to race, as a fair system should be. Since the United States reinstituted the death penalty in 1977, 88 percent of those put to death were convicted in cases involving white victims. Minority defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim in their case was white and less likely if the victim was also a minority. Also, rich defendants with large teams of defense lawyers are less likely to face execution.

“The ability to put citizens to death in a non-emergency situation is a power too great to be entrusted to a government led by ordinary, fallible men and women. It is an irreversible punishment, and false convictions are all too common. Over the last forty years, more than 130 individuals on death row have been exonerated and released in the United States.

“But most of all, execution is just another form of killing—the same act that it seeks to punish. Execution is an antiquated form of justice, long abandoned in most free countries like ours, and first formalized in the ‘eye for an eye‘ edict of Hammurabi’s Code almost 4,000 years ago.

“In today’s world and in our state, executions are thankfully quite rare. Only one has been carried out in Connecticut in the past 40 years, at the insistence of the condemned. The time has come to formalize longstanding practice in Connecticut, and cease sentencing prisoners to death.”

Senate Bill 280 would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for capital offenses committed on or after the date it took effect.


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