The state of Connecticut no longer has a death penalty, effective today.
Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the bill that lawmakers recently passed.
Malloy said one factor that led him to sign the bill was the "unworkability" of Connecticut’s death penalty law.
"In the last 52 years, only 2 people have been put to death in Connecticut – and both of them volunteered for it," Malloy said in a statement. "Instead, the people of this state pay for appeal after appeal, and then watch time and again as defendants are marched in front of the cameras, giving them a platform of public attention they don’t deserve. It is sordid attention that rips open never-quite-healed wounds. The 11 men currently on death row in Connecticut are far more likely to die of old age than they are to be put to death."
The bill affects only future sentences and not the 11 men currently on death row, including the two men recently sentenced to death for killing a mother and two daughters in a gruesome home invasion in Cheshire.
Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes have been sentenced in the last two years to death row for killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela.
Thomas Ullmann, who was the public defender assigned to represent Hayes, said he has tremendous respect for Malloy for signing the bill.
"I think it's a huge step forward, and I think you never have to worry about an innocent person being sentenced to death," Ullmann said. "So much energy is expended in either prosecuting the case or defending the case that involves the potential penalty of death."
Dr. William Petit, the only survivor of the home invasion, has opposed repealing the death penalty.
"We believe in the death penalty because we believe it is really the only true, just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders," Petit said before the Senate voted. "One thing you never hear the abolitionists talk about is the victims, almost never. The forgotten people. The people who died and can't be here to speak for themselves."
While proponents for repeal maintain those currently on death row will still face execution, GOP critics said they question whether that would be constitutional and predict the legislation will be the basis for new appeals.
“Dr. William Petit stood with us to point out that the repeal of the death penalty will provide mercy to killers who offered none to their victims," State Sen. John A. Kissel (R-Enfield), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "Repeal will spare the lives of the 11 murderers who currently sit on Death Row. Repeal eliminates a powerful tool for society to mete out justice to the worst of the worst. Repeal removes the appropriate sanction in certain heinous, cruel and depraved crimes.”
Under the proposed legislation, convicted killers would receive life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty.
“As in past years, the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut has been led by dozens of family members of murder victims, and some of them were present as I signed this legislation today," Malloy said on Wednesday. " In the words of one such survivor: ‘Now is the time to start the process of healing, a process that could have been started decades earlier with the finality of a life sentence. We cannot afford to put on hold the lives of these secondary victims. We need to allow them to find a way as early as possible to begin to live again.’ Perhaps that is the most compelling message of all."