State Representative Penny Bacchiochi (R- Somers) tonight opposed legislation to abolish the Death Penalty in Connecticut. The controversial bill passed after hours of debate by a vote of 86 to 62.
“This is a difficult issue and one that people on both sides feel very strongly about,” Bacchiochi said. “I made my decision to oppose repeal after a great deal of contemplation and after speaking with proponents as well as opponents of capitol punishment. In the end I think, used sparingly, the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the most heinous of crimes.”
S.B. 280: An Act Revising The Penalty For Capital Felonies eliminates the death penalty as a sentencing option for a capital felony thus leaving life imprisonment without the possibility of release as the most severe penalty available. The bill also renames the crime of capital felony as murder with special circumstances. Governor Malloy has stated that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk, having passed in the Senate last week, it is clear the bill will become law.
While the bill is written to be prospective and, therefore, have no bearing on the eleven individuals currently on Death Row, Bacchiochi said she is concerned that upon passage it will offer an avenue of appeals for those individuals. She is also concerned these changes will have unintended consequences and could allow some violent offenders to be placed in the general prison population, make them eligible for early release or remove a strong deterrent to prevent people already in prison from committing violent crimes while they are incarcerated.
Bacchiochi also supported a number of amendments to the underlying bill that would preserve the death penalty for specific crimes. One amendment that Bacchiochi offered would keep the death penalty for those convicted of the murder of a DOC employee. Bacchiochi also proposed an amendment that would eliminate risk reduction credits for violent offenders that they could otherwise use to earn early release from prison. Both amendments failed.
“Law enforcement officials tell me that the death penalty is a powerful and appropriate tool when dealing with the worst criminals. We aren’t Texas, we rarely ever execute our criminals, but we do use it to secure plea bargains and sentences to life without parole. That bargaining tool is gone now and will result in even lighter penalties for these violent offenders.”
Last year, the highly regarded Quinnipiac University Polling Institute stated that 67 percent of Connecticut residents were in favor of the death penalty versus 28 percent opposed. Those numbers are a steady increase from previous years which demonstrates the majority of Connecticut residents oppose changes to current law.