Death Row Inmates Can Breathe Sigh of Relief if Death Penalty Abolished

The 10 murderers currently awaiting execution on death row can breathe a sigh of relief if the measure to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut becomes law, state Representative Arthur J. O’Neill said today.
“Although the proposal (House Bill 6578) that passed the state House May 13th purports to apply only to future ‘murder[s] with special circumstances,’ it will in fact render the death penalty unenforceable even in the cases of the 10 convicted murderers currently awaiting execution,” said Representative O’Neill, R-69th District, the House Republican Leader on the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“When Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, who represents the state in death penalty cases testified before the Judiciary Committee in March, he said that if this bill becomes law, it would nullify the death penalty for anybody convicted of a capital felony murder before the act took effect,” Representative O’Neill said.

“Death penalty cases currently under appeal would be immeasurably strengthened if the abolition bill eventually becomes law. It would make it extremely difficult for the state to argue successfully that executions of current death row inmates should proceed since people convicted of the same kinds of crimes after the abolition legislation takes effect could no longer receive the death penalty,” Representative O’Neill said.

“Mr. Kane told the Judiciary Committee that if the death penalty is abolished, Connecticut courts would not, ‘as a matter of constitutional law,’ sanction the execution of current death row inmates and ‘this legislature would not want us to be doing it,’ “Representative O’Neill added.

“I urged a no vote on the bill because it was disingenuous for death penalty abolitionists to claim that if the bill became law, current death row inmates could still be executed – especially after Mr. Kane testified emphatically that the bill would render the death penalty unenforceable in any case in which a killer had not yet been executed,” said Representative O’Neill, who read crucial portions of Mr. Kane’s testimony into the official record during debate on the floor of the House.

“Everyone who voted in favor of repeal May 13th knew very well that the chief state’s attorney had stated publicly that this proposal will effectively end the death penalty for all those awaiting execution if it becomes law,” Representative O’Neill said.

“For that reason and in the interest of justice for future victims who die horribly at the hands of depraved, heartless murderers, I strongly urge my colleagues in the state Senate to reject this bill, and failing that, for Governor Rell to veto it if and when it comes to her desk,” Representative O’Neill said.

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