Sen. Kissel: All on Death Row would have sentences thrown out if repeal measure passes

March 14, 2012

Article as it appeared in the New Haven Register

Hearing on Connecticut death penalty repeal draws no support for status quo
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Jordan Fenster, Register Staff
[email protected] / Twitter: @jordanfenster

HARTFORD — Four hours into public testimony today on a death penalty repeal proposal, not a single speaker was in favor of maintaining the status quo.

There were some objections to repeal aired, however, coming from members of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee as they listened to public testimony Wednesday.

The bill currently under review is prospective in nature — should repeal pass, the death penalty would still apply to the 11 inmates currently on Death Row. It is the effect repeal would have on death sentences already handed down that was a source of concern for some committee members.

State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, argued that prospective repeal would result in sentence reductions for Death Row inmates.

“I believe all the folks on Death Row would have their sentences thrown out for them,” he said.

No one argued that repeal would not have an effect.

State Senate Majority Leader Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, for example, said the state should expect appeals.

“That effort will certainly be made, but I will not speculate on the outcome,” he said.

Proponents of repeal were consistent in theme — many spoke about the fallibility of the system, the inequities of race and economics, and the finality of a capital punishment sentence.

“It’s just a matter of time before we have somebody on Death Row who is innocent,” said Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project.
Looney, speaking to a largely Republican opposition, made an appeal based on small government.

“I believe this is an area where we should have humility regarding governmental power,” he said.

But, as Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said in his testimony, the question of repeal “involves questions of morality.”

“Recognize that this is your own individual decision,” he said, and some legislators made very personal arguments.

“The 11 on Death Row, five of them killed children, one of them shot a cop,” said state Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire. “We’re saying, ‘Have mercy on them.’ I don’t buy it. I think the needle is too good for them.”