Even as state lawmakers debate whether to abolish the death penalty, prison
guards have been training for an execution.
Correction Commissioner Leo C. Arnone said the training began after he heard
that a Death Row inmate might waive his appeals. So he asked Correction
Department officials what they would do if they had to execute one of the
state’s 11 Death Row inmates. They told him they didn’t know, he said.
The state’s last execution occurred 7 years ago in 2005, when serial killer
Michael Ross waived his appeals and was put to death by lethal injection.
Only 2 members of the team involved in that execution still are working for the
state, Arnone said.
It’s unclear whether any Correction Department employees continued training for
executions after the Ross execution.
Death row is at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers. The execution
chambers are at the adjacent Osborn Correctional Institution.
Arnone said he’s looking to federal guidelines and studying execution practices
in other states. At least one state employee traveled to Texas last year to
witness an execution there. Texas employs a similar method to Connecticut’s
lethal injection, Arnone said.
Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett said Monday that the training is
part of keeping up with state rules.
“The department has an obligation to ensure that we maintain a high level of
proficiency in our ability to carry out the law, and that is what we’re in the
process of doing,” he said.
Garnett declined to say how many employees traveled to Texas, how much the trip
cost, or whether any other money has been spent on training. He also wouldn’t
say how many employees were involved and whether the state had spent any money
on other materials as a result of the training.
The training started almost a year ago, Garnett said.
The training comes as lawmakers debate repealing the death penalty for future
crimes — a measure critics say would halt all executions in the state. Gov.
Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he would sign such a bill.
The measure failed to clear the Senate last year after Dr. William A. Petit
Jr., the only survivor of the Cheshire home invasion in which his wife and 2
daughters were murdered, met with lawmakers to persuade them not to abolish the
Should the measure come before the Senate this year, it’s expected to be
another close vote. Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of repealing the death
penalty said the training is in keeping with the law .
Rep. Gary A. Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, has led in the effort to repeal the
death penalty. “I don’t think we’re going to execute anyone, but the current
law is that we do execute,” he said.
Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, opposes repealing the death penalty. His
district includes death row and the execution chambers. “I would guess that
they have to be ready for that at all times,” he said.
Kissel said that some death row inmates could be nearing the end of their
appeals. Some have been there for more than 20 years, and little has happened
in their appeals in the last 5 years, he said.
He acknowledged the state Senate could have enough votes to repeal the death
penalty for future crimes — historically, the measure has had the votes to
clear the House of Representatives but not the Senate. But Kissel warned that
he and other Republicans could filibuster to block the move, saying the debate
could take as long as 2 days.
“We have a great caucus,” he said. “I think the vast majority of my colleagues
on the Republican side feel very strongly on this.”
Kissel also has argued that even if the law limits repealing the death penalty
to future crimes, it could end executions altogether. That’s because a judge
could decide the death penalty is a “cruel and unusual punishment,” he said,
based on “evolving society standards.”
“They will look at the law, even though it is prospective, and use it to show
that the societal standards of Connecticut have changed,” Kissel said.
Union officials also have given the execution training the OK, Salvatore
Luciano, executive director of the American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees Council 4, said. His union represents prison guards.
The Correction Department cleared the change with the union, and the employees
preparing for executions are a volunteer-only force, he said.
(source: Journal Inquirer)