HARTFORD – State Representative Arthur J. O’Neill (R-69) voted in favor of continued strong laws to keep violent offenders off Connecticut streets and against repealing the death penalty.
Rep. O’Neill voted against SB 240: An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, which eliminates the death penalty as a sentencing option for crimes committed on or after the bill’s effective date. This bill replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of release and renames the crime of capital felony as “murder with special circumstances.”
“There are some crimes so heinous and inhumane – such as the murders of the Petit family and the crimes of Michael Ross – that the only appropriate penalty is capital punishment. The elimination of this law is both an elimination of a powerful and evidence-based deterrent to crime and an insult to the families of victims of these horrific crimes.” Rep. O’Neill said.
Rep. O’Neill added “The claim that the death penalty can be repealed prospectively is disingenuous. It has never occurred in this country, and both the Chief State Attorney and the Chief Public Defender admitted openly in public hearings that a prospective death penalty would prompt them to immediately file challenges to the Komisarjevsky and Hayes convictions, and there would be a good chance of success in that effort.”
“More recently prominent defense attorney Hugh Keefe has said that, ‘The chance of any of those guys being put to death is about as great as winning that $500 million lottery last week. It’s just not going to happen.’”
Rep. O’Neill introduced an amendment to the House that would propose a nonbinding public referendum on the death penalty to be held during the November 2012 general election. Rep. O’Neill stated that “a real vote by the people of the State of Connecticut would provide the kind of guidance so many lawmakers have been seeking.” The amendment was defeated overwhelmingly by House Democrats.
Following a nine and a half hour debate, the bill passed the House 86-62 and will now go to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Rep. O’Neill is the House Republican Leader-at-Large and a former Ranking Member on the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. He is the longest serving Republican House member and has voted consistently against the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut on over a half dozen previous occasions.