Connecticut Legislature Repeals Death Penalty

Seven out of 10 death row inmates are African-American or Latino, and studies show race has played a factor in sentencing. 

Posted: 04/12/2012 05:53 PM EDT

(Photo: David J Sams/Getty Images)

Connecticut has become the 17th state to repeal the death penalty.

Gov. Daniel Malloy has agreed to sign the state bill to eliminate the death penalty following an almost 10-hour House of Representatives debate Wednesday night with a final vote of 86-62. The bill was approved by the Senate just six days prior. The new measures replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It has no effect on the 11 men currently on death row in Connecticut and will only apply to future cases.

"Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience," the Democratic governor said. in a statement, following the vote. "Let's throw away the key and have them spend the rest of their natural lives in jail."

In Connecticut, seven out of 10, or 70 percent, of death row inmates are African-American or Latino, whereas only 9 percent of Connecticut's population is African-American and 10 percent is Latino, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

Studies have shown the most important factor in levying the death penalty is race. Those who kill a white person are shown to be more likely to receive the death penalty than those who kill a Black or Latino person.

"This has been a long and difficult struggle. Two years ago we finally saw repeal pass through both houses of the legislature, only to be vetoed by M. Jodi Rell, who was then the governor," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut in a statement. "Over those two years it has become increasingly apparent, even to some of those who have long supported capital punishment, that we must end a harsh and mistake-prone system that has never been applied rationally or fairly. The day that Gov. Malloy signs this bill will be a historic one for Connecticut and for justice."

Four other states have abolished the death penalty in the past five years: Illinois, New Jersey, New York and New Mexico.


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