Connecticut lawmakers vote to repeal death penalty

Connecticut's governor says he will sign a bill abolishing the death penalty, making it the 17th state to abandon capital punishment.

On Wednesday night, lawmakers in Connecticut's House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 86-63. The state Senate approved it last week.

"I'm pleased the House passed the bill, and when it gets to my desk I will sign it," said Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. "When I sign this bill, Connecticut will join 16 other states and almost every other industrialized nation in moving toward what I believe is better public policy."

Malloy did not say when his office will receive the bill.

Connecticut moves to end death penaltyConnecticut's move continues a national trend toward the abolition of capital punishment. In the past five years, four states have done so.

State lawmakers in Connecticut first tried to pass a similar bill in 2009 -- but were ultimately blocked by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican.

Capital punishment has existed in the state since its colonial days.

But the state was forced to review its death penalty laws beginning in 1972, when a Supreme Court decision required greater consistency in its application.

A moratorium was then imposed until a 1976 court decision upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment.

Since then, Connecticut juries have handed down 15 death sentences. Of those, only one person has actually been executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan group that studies death penalty laws.

Michael Ross, a convicted serial killer, was put to death by lethal injection in 2005 after he voluntarily gave up his appeals.

The state currently has 11 people on death row. The bill, however, is prospective in nature, meaning that it would not apply to those already sentenced to death.

Advocates of a repeal say Connecticut's current law keeps inmates on death row for extended periods of time, who are often engaged in multiple appeals, and presents taxpayers with far larger costs than if the convict were placed in the general prison population serving a life sentence.

They also point to instances in which wrongful convictions have been overturned with new investigative methods, including forensic testing.

Opponents of the repeal commonly argue that capital punishment serves as a criminal deterrent, offering justice for victims and their families.

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty. California voters will decide the issue in November.

The other non-death penalty states are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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