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Connecticut high court upholds state's death penalty law

The Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] the state's death penalty [JURIST news archive] law. The court's ruling affirmed the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering a 13-year old boy with a sledgehammer in 1997. In its defense of the death penalty, the court invoked provisions of the Connecticut Constitution [text] that permit capital punishment, declaring, "In article first, § 8, and article first, § 19, our state constitution makes repeated textual references to capital offenses and thus expressly sustains the constitutional validity of such a penalty in appropriate circumstances." The majority opinion claimed that these state constitutional provisions, which closely mirror the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments [text] to the US constitution imply that the death penalty does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, nor does it violate persons' due process rights. The dissenting judge [text, PDF] disagreed with the majority's reasoning, posing the rhetorical question, "[has] our thirst for this ultimate penalty now been slaked, or do we, the people of Connecticut, continue down this increasingly lonesome road?" The court's decision could have a ripple effect on future death penalty jurisprudence in Connecticut.

The death penalty continues to arouse legal, political and moral controversy nationwide. Two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court [official website] declined [JURIST report] to hear the case of a Texas death row inmate who was allegedly convicted partially on the basis of race. Earlier in November, the Ohio Supreme Court [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it was forming a committee to ensure that the death penalty was not administered arbitrarily. In March, Illinois abolished capital punishment [JURIST report], concluding [press release] that there was no way to rid the capital punishment system of its discriminatory flaws. In 2009, New Mexico repealed its death penalty [JURIST report] on similar grounds to Illinois, asserting that the state could not possibly administer the death penalty impartially. In 2005, the Connecticut House of Representatives [official website] voted down legislation[JURIST report] that would have eliminated the state's death penalty.

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