Connecticut is set to become what Maryland should have been: the most recent
state to abolish capital punishment.
With the expected signature of Gov. Dan Malloy (D) within the next few days,
Connecticut would become the 17th state to repeal the death penalty and the 5th
in the past 5 years. Life without the possibility for parole would become the
highest level of punishment in the state, which last executed a prisoner in
Connecticut’s action is disconcerting in one important respect: The repeal
takes the death penalty off the table for future cases but keeps in place the
sentences for the 11 prisoners already on death row. This decision was taken in
part to preserve the death sentences of 2 career criminals who, during a 2007
home invasion, raped and murdered a mother and her 2 daughters and then set
their home on fire to destroy evidence.
We share in the outrage triggered by such heinous crimes, but we also believe
that the death penalty — no matter the facts of a case — is morally wrong. One
does not have to subscribe to this view to believe that it is also indefensible
as a matter of policy.
Once an execution has been carried out, there is no chance for reversal. And
there is no level of certainty that can guarantee a grievous mistake will be
averted. Roughly 140 death-row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, many
after serving years on death row or coming close to execution.
There is also no evidence that capital punishment deters the most violent
crimes. But a capital case often sucks millions of dollars from public coffers
because defendants must be provided with more than one lawyer and other
resources. Even after a conviction, these cases drag on for years, taking a
toll on victims’ families.
All of these factors are well known to Maryland lawmakers, who just three years
ago came within one vote of repealing the death penalty. Add to that historical
racial disparities in how the penalty has been applied and the reluctance of
the state to carry out such sentences. Only 5 menare on Maryland’s death row,
and no prisoner has been executed since 2005.
Yet Maryland’s lawmakers refused to seriously consider repeal during the recent
legislative session. Connecticut’s approach may be imperfect, but lawmakers
there at least had the fortitude to act.
(source: Editorial, Washington Post)