Sen. McLachlan: Legislature Should Clarify Its Intentions by Fixing Death Penalty Repeal Law

January 5, 2016

As the Connecticut Supreme Court prepares for a Thursday hearing to review its decision declaring the death penalty unconstitutional, Sen. Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury) has written to leaders of the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee to request a fix of the prospective repeal of the death penalty.

“The true legislative intent in Connecticut’s 2012 law was to repeal the death penalty prospectively only,” Sen. McLachlan, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said. “The legislature and the governor had no intention of sparing the lives of Connecticut’s most heinous and depraved murderers who were already on death row. The intent was to assure that those who were sentenced to death under the Connecticut death penalty law for crimes committed prior to April 2012 would be put to death in accordance with the law in existence at the time they committed their crimes. We’ve got to clarify that in Connecticut law.”

Justices on Jan. 7 are scheduled to hear arguments in the appeal of Russell Peeler Jr. — a case in which the court will revisit its 4-3 decision last year that declared Connecticut’s death penalty unconstitutional. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers in 2012 abolished the death penalty, but only for future murders — leaving 11 men including Peeler still facing execution. A divided Supreme Court ruled in August in the appeal of another death row inmate that the 2012 abolishment must be applied to those who remained on death row because the death penalty violated the state constitution.

Sen. McLachlan opposed the repeal of the death penalty in 2012.

At the time, Martin Looney, the Democrat leader in the state Senate, said, “I don’t think there is anything in the legislative history of the law that would indicate anything other than our intention that the repeal be entirely prospective.”

Former Democratic state Sen. Edith Prague added, “I couldn’t live with myself if repeal got [Joshua] Komisarjevsky and [Steven] Hayes to win an appeal to have their death penalties reversed.”

Even Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made his intent known. “What I’ve said is any legislation that I would sign would be prospective, it would be out into the future,” Gov. Malloy said. “I’ve guaranteed that it would be drafted in such a way as to guarantee that these two individuals [Komisarjevsky and Hayes] — if we ever had a workable death penalty — would be put to death, if that’s the sentence of the jury.”