Twenty-six Yalies drove up to Hartford, Conn. Monday to support the repeal of the death penalty at a public hearing of the state legislature.
The group joined family members of murder victims, death row exonerees, religious leaders and various citizen activists, who came to the Judiciary Committee hearing to voice their opinions for or against capital punishment in the state, Helen Jack ’12 said.
The Judiciary Committee considered seven bills at the hearing, two of which dealt with death penalty abolition, said Ben Jones GRD ’14, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty (CNADP). One bill proposes a retroactive repeal of the death penalty, eliminating the penalty for people already on death row as well as in future cases, while the other proposes a prospective repeal, ending capital punishment in the future. Both bills would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without chance of parole.
Jack, who is a leader in Yale’s Amnesty International chapter and serves on Amnesty International’s regional planning group for Connecticut, testified at the hearing on behalf of Amnesty International and Yale, she said. While the other Yale students came to the hearing in shifts, she and Amalia Skilton ’13 stayed at hearing for a full 14 hours until Jack’s time came to testify at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, they said.
Speaking from Amnesty’s human rights perspective, Jack called capital punishment “the ultimate violation of human rights.” She noted that at Yale nine undergraduate organizations, six religious groups, and two groups at the Law School have given their support for death penalty abolition in the past year.
The hearing is only the first step of a lengthy legislative process, Skilton, who is the youth organizer for CNADP and organized the Yale group’s trip to Hartford, said. After the state Judiciary Committee votes on the bills, if passed they will move onto a vote in the Connecticut House and then the Senate.
Since Governor Dan Malloy has voiced his support for abolishing capital punishment and made the issue a focus of his election campaign, Skilton said now is an opportune moment for a new bill. In 2009 a death penalty repeal bill passed the House and Senate only to be vetoed by former governor M. Jodi Rell.
“If we don’t act this year when we have a supportive administration, that chance will be lost,” Skilton said.
Connecticut is one of 35 states in the U.S. that retain the death penalty.