A bill that would abolish the state's death penalty for all future cases and
replace the punishment with life imprisonment has passed its first round of
votes in the General Assembly despite a recent poll's findings that repeal is
unpopular with a majority of voters.
Members of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee voted 24-19 in favor of
the bill on Wednesday. Now, the vote awaits further legislative action by the
The vote on the bill came shortly after a new Quinnipiac University poll showed
62 % of Connecticut residents do not support repealing the death penalty. The
poll, released Wednesday, surveyed 1,622 registered voters on an array of
issues. The margin of sampling error for the poll was 2.4 % points.
Despite the findings of the poll, state lawmakers on both sides of the issue
have raised concerns on what the poll is actually reflecting.
Mike Lawlor, the undersecretary of Criminal Justice Policy for the Office of
Policy and Management, said despite the lack of public support shown in the
poll Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would sign legislation on the issue.
"If we had polled civil rights in 1962, we would still be operating largely
under Jim Crow laws," Malloy said. "So I think I'll stick with my position, and
that is, that matters of conscience, people should be driven by their own
The Quinnipiac University poll director, Doug Schwartz, said the poll found
"about 2 to 1 were against abolishing the death penalty."
Of those surveyed, more than 80 % of Republicans said they believe abolishing
the death penalty is a "bad idea," compared to 44 % of Democrats.
According to the poll, Connecticut men are more likely to oppose death penalty
repeal than women.
Additionally, more than 1/2 of state residents polled said they think death row
inmates should still be executed if the penalty is abolished.
While repealing the state's death penalty remains unpopular among voters, the
percentage of Connecticut residents who said they oppose abolishing the
punishment has dropped 5 % since last year.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, who is an outspoken supporter of
repealing the death penalty, said the poll's recent findings on the death
penalty are misleading. Holder-Winfield, the committee's vice chair, criticized
the poll for not asking residents if they support life imprisonment in place of
capital punishment, as it has in previous years.
In March 2011, Quinnipiac released a poll that surveyed nearly 1,700 state
voters on issues including the death penalty.
The poll asked multiple questions on the subject and found that just under half
the residents surveyed said they preferred a sentence of life in prison without
parole over the death penalty.
"It's cool if you want to obfuscate and talk about something we're not talking
about, except that on something this serious, you should talk about the issue
before the state," he said.
Similar to Holder-Winfield, death penalty opponent Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield,
said the poll is not reflective of the population that would support repeal
with certain caveats, like life imprisonment without parole or solitary
Kissel, a bill opponent, said the poll does point out that most state voters do
not want death penalty repeal.
"For those of my colleagues who feel they know better, I would say the people
of Connecticut are pretty darn smart," Kissel said.
In the committee's lengthy discussion before the vote, Kissel raised a bill
amendment that would give certain egregious offenders sentences that include
isolation. Although the amendment failed, Kissel said he will continue to raise
In 2009, a death penalty repeal bill passed the legislature but was vetoed by
then-Gov. Jodi Rell. Last year, a similar effort failed in the Senate due
largely to the ongoing death penalty trial in a fatal Cheshire home invasion
There are 11 inmates sitting on death row in Connecticut. The state has carried
out only one execution in 51 years, when serial killer Michael Ross was
administered lethal injection in 2005.
(source: Wausau Daily Herald)