In response to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s June veto of a bill proposing to end capital punishment in the state, a number of vocal activists have remobilized to eradicate the death penalty in Connecticut.
At its annual meeting Tuesday, the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, or CNADP, convened a number of speakers and organizations, including the Connecticut NAACP, the National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International and the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, to oppose Rell’s veto. Representatives from the groups reiterated this week that they plan to move ahead in pushing legislation through Connecticut legislatures in coming months, introducing a new movement — the Abolition Day Campaign — against Rell’s decision.
The CNADP, founded in 1986, has since been fighting to overturn the 1973 bill that reinstated the death penalty in Connecticut. In May of this year, CNADP Executive Director Ben Jones said the group saw its greatest success when legislation illegalizing capital punishment passed the House of Representatives by a landslide 90-56 vote and was later narrowly approved by the Connecticut Senate in a 19-17 vote. Still, two weeks later, Rell exercised her veto and stopped the document from becoming law.
State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, Democrat of New Haven, said that despite the current sensitivity surrounding the murder of Annie Le MED ’13, the 24-year-old grad student whose remains were found in the basement of an on-campus lab facility, the campaign against capital punishment has not waned.
“Any murder is a great tragedy,” Holder-Winfield said Thursday, “but we have to continue to push for what’s right.”
But if her two-page veto message in June was any indication, Rell will remain staunch in her position; she argued that the death penalty can help deter heinous crimes.
“The death penalty sends a clear message to those who may contemplate such cold, calculated crimes,” she said in the veto. “We will not tolerate those who have murdered in the most vile, dehumanizing fashion.”
Several students interviewed Thursday said they thought capital punishment may be warranted in certain cases, but Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, a nonprofit that aims to exonerate wrongfully incarcerated individuals, explained that the death penalty can cause irreversible damage to human rights.
“If someone is executed for a crime they did not commit,” Goodrow said, “there’s no way to remedy that.”
Holder-Winfield said much of the public support for the death penalty comes from those who are misguided in their beliefs. One popular misconception, he said, is that murder victims’ families always desire the closure provided by capital punishment: “It’s not going to bring their loved ones back,” he said.
In terms of economics, Jones said the state would save an additional $4 million a year if it replaced the death penalty with life sentences. He reasoned that lengthy, involved capital cases can cost the state dollars that would be better spent on other endeavors, such as supporting officers.
In the past five years, New York and New Jersey have both illegalized capital punishment. Connecticut is one of 35 states that still maintain the death penalty.