The debate was long and heated, but after 12 hours, the state Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. The fate of the bill is uncertain however. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has not said how she will vote.
Just after 4 a.m. Friday, the Senate voted 19-17 to approve the bill that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release.
This is the first time the General Assembly has passed such legislation. Ten years ago, a bill to abolish the death penalty failed to pass by a wide margin.
Rell didn’t say on Thursday whether she'll veto the bill but said she believes capital punishment is appropriate for those who commit especially heinous crimes. She has about 10 days to act.
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the vote historic. It reflects a change in attitude among some senators and the public toward the death penalty, especially amid revelations of wrongful convictions in other states, he said.
He said he hopes Rell takes that into account as she decides whether to sign the bill into law.
"I still think the governor is keeping an open mind," McDonald said.
Much of the hours-long debate early Friday morning came from Republicans who support the death penalty. They proposed more than 25 amendments, including some exempting killers whose victims were police, children or pregnant women.
The hours-long dialog drew accusations of filibustering by the majority Democrats.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, referred to the GOP's parade of amendments, which often included a recitation of graphic details of infamous murders, as the "tyranny of the minority." He criticized his leadership for not changing the rules to stop such a tactic.
Republicans denied they were filibustering.
There are 10 men on the state's death row, including three who committed their crimes in the 1980s. None would be affected should this bill become law.
Anne and Fred Stone of Farmington have been following the debate. Their 37-year-old son Ralph was stabbed to death and robbed by an assailant who broke into his Washington, D.C. condominium in 1997. His killer was never arrested and Anne Stone said she would not want that person put to death.
"The death penalty wouldn't do anything for our grief," she said. "It wouldn't do anything for us."
But Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, has urged lawmakers to preserve the death penalty.
"If you allow murderers to live, you are giving them more regard, more value than three women who never hurt a soul and played by all of society's rules for all their short lives," he told lawmakers in March.