Connecticut supreme court rules existing death penalty sentences unconstitutional News
Connecticut supreme court rules existing death penalty sentences unconstitutional

The Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 4-3 on Thursday that a state law [SB 280 materials] banning executions for future sentences, but allowing them for past sentences is unconstitutional. Writing for the court, Justice Richard Palmer said imposing the sentence on existing inmates when it has been outlawed for future use constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Connecticut State Constitution [text] :

[T]he death penalty no longer serves any legitimate penological goal in our state. As Judge Kozinski concludes, ‘‘we have little more than an illusion of a death penalty in this country. To be sure, we have capital trials; we have convictions and death sentences imposed; we have endless and massively costly reviews by the state and federal courts; and we do have a small number of people executed each year. But the number of executions compared to the number of people who have been sentenced to death is minuscule, and the gap is widening every year. Whatever purposes the death penalty is said to serve— deterrence, retribution, assuaging the pain suffered by victims’ families—these purposes are not served by the system as it now operates.’’

The ruling removes [Hartford Courant report] the remaining 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row.

The law was approved by Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy in April 2012, after being approved by the House and the Senate [JURIST reports] earlier that month.