It happened. After so many years, so many debates and 11 people on death row, Connecticut’s Senate has voted to repeal the death penalty. This is a prospective repeal only and it yet has to pass the House and be signed by the Governor, but the latter seem to be formalities at this point.
Those who follow this blog will know that there is nothing more that I have wanted ever since I started blogging in the wake of the Michael Ross execution battle is to see this State join the rest of the Northeastern states and the vast majority of countries worldwide in abolishing this most final and barbaric of punishments.
It is late, and I have tears in my eyes, so I will leave you with these quotes and highly recommend that you listen to/watch the speeches made on the floor of the Senate by Senators Slossberg and Musto.
First, a hat-tip to my favorite CT Supreme Court Justice Robert Berdon:
This probably will be the last case before my retirement in which I will have the opportunity to express my views with respect to the dreadful punishment of death and related matters. Civilized nations have barred this horrible punishment. Some of our sister states have also banned death as a punishment, including all of the New England states except one – Connecticut. I have pointed out in my dissents in State v. Cobb, 251 Conn. 285, 523, 743 A.2d 1 (1999), State v. Webb, 238 Conn. 389, 552-54, 680 A.2d 147 (1996), State v. Breton, 235 Conn. 206, 262, 663 A.2d 1026 (1995), and State v. Ross, 230 Conn. 183, 294, 646 A.2d 1318 (1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1165, 115 S. Ct. 1133, 130 L. Ed. 2d 1095 (1995), that the penalty of death fails to comport with contemporary standards of decency and that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of our state constitution. I leave this court heartbroken because, as a result of one vote, 24 Connecticut is not among those enlightened states and nations to put an end to the death penalty. But those who would have it must live with this stain of blood. The determination of the constitutionality of the death penalty is not in the control of the legislature but, rather, in this court and the majority has failed to recognize its unconstitutionality.
This is for you Justice Berdon. The legislature has done what the Court refused to do.
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies… Perhaps one day this court will develop procedural rules or verbal formulas that actually will provide consistency, fairness and reliability in a capital-sentencing scheme. I am not optimistic that such a day will come. I am more optimistic, though, that this court eventually will conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness ‘in the infliction of [death] is so plainly doomed to failure that it and the death penalty must be abandoned altogether.’ (Godfrey v. Georgia, 1980) I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive. The path the court has chosen lessen us all.”
We no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. We shall no longer indulge our basest emotions of fear, anger, hate and revenge. We shall no longer apply the uncivilized notion of ‘eye for an eye’. We shall stand up and say we are better than this. We will no longer be arrogant and say that we have the right to decide who lives and who dies.
We are defined by how we treat the worst among us and we will not be counted among them. We will be remembered favorably by posterity. We are compassionate, gentle and progressive. We will not give up parts of ourselves when we kill others. We will not die within as we make others die without. We will lead by example, not anger. We will no longer cheer at the thought of the death of others.
We will not give up our humanity, even if others have. We will not have blood on our hands.