Gov. Kills Bill Abolishing Death Penalty

Murderers convicted of the state's most heinous crimes can still be put to death in Connecticut.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has vetoed a bill passed by the House and Senate that would have abolished the death penalty.

“The death penalty is, and ought to be, reserved for those who have committed crimes that are revolting to our humanity and civilized society,” Rell said in her veto message. “I sincerely respect the beliefs of  those who support this bill and the passion with which they have presented the bill.”

The issue was among the most controversial in this past legislative session.

The bill, which would have replaced capital punishment with life in prison, passed 19-17 in the Senate and 90-56 in the House last month.

Supporters of the bill in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly have said they do not have the necessary two-thirds majority of votes to override her veto.

Judiciary co-chairs Michael Lawlor and Andrew McDonald recently said that if the governor doesn't want to sign the bill, she needs to come up with her own plan to make the law "workable."

“I believe the current law is workable and effective and I would propose that it not be changed,” Rell said in her veto message.

The veto also has the support of Dr. William Petit, Jr., whose wife and daughters were brutally killed in 2007.  He had testified against the bill, and Friday issued this statement:  "Thankfully Governor Rell has a sense of what is required to maintain the fabric of our society.  Finally the victims have a reasonable voice and some consideration over the deluded thinkers who feel that rights should only be accorded to convicted felons."

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found three of every five Connecticut residents wanted the state to keep its death penalty.

Connecticut has 10 death row inmates.  Click here for a Who's Who on Death Row.

House Democrats and civil rights leaders held an afternoon news conference to protest the veto.  "The death penalty does not work.  The scheme that we have does not work," said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven, who was among the bill's top supporters.

The national leader of the N.A.A.C.P. attended the news conference, calling Connecticut Texas-North.  "The death penalty in the state of Connecticut is more racially disparate in its application than any state except for Texas," said Benjamin Jealous, the N.A.A.C.P. national president.  

Jealous also criticized the governor for refusing to speak with him prior to exercising her veto power.  "I frankly expected that Governor Rell would pay me the basic respect of talking to me five minutes before she made her decision rather than five minutes after," said Jealous.  "A cowardly act on a serious issue."

Amnesty International blasted Rell for vetoing the bill.

“No system can be perfected enough to prevent the innocent from being sent to death row.  Recent cases have demonstrated the fallibility of Connecticut’s justice system. In the last two years James Tillman, who was given 45 years for rape, and Miguel Roman, who was sentenced to 60 years for murder, were found to be have been wrongfully convicted,” Amnesty International said in a news release. “The exonerations of these innocent men ought to make Governor Rell realize that the irreversible punishment of death has no place in a system that makes such mistakes.”

The Governor is not commenting on her decision, Chris Cooper, the governor's spokesman said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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