It has recently been brought to the attention of the Connecticut Judiciary Committee that getting rid of the death penalty would save the state a good deal of money In fact There is currently a bill in the house that proposes the complete abolition of the penalty within the state to be replaced with life sentences with no possibility of parole in its stead.
And with the current climate surrounding all things money, being what it is, more than a few members of the committee and the legislature would seem to think that this bill is worth considering. After all, they point out, the death penalty, although legal in Connecticut, is rarely awarded here by a jury or judge The parameters that a crime or crimes must be defined within in order to qualify for this, the ultimate punishment are far from commonplace -- they must be in effect the worst of the worst capital murder cases, having one or more particularly heinous attributes in order to be eligible for a death sentence.
For these and other reasons, the death penalty sentence is rarely given in the state of Connecticut, and with its endless automatic appeals process, the actual penalty itself, death by lethal injection, is even more rarely carried out.
Once, to be exact within the past 2 decades, and this was a case whereby the criminal in question had to petition the courts to have his sentence actually carried out! He didn't wish any more state-financed appeals slowing down his jury awarded sentence. His name was Michael Ross, he was a serial murderer and rapist, but thankfully, he plead guilty and accepted his sentence for brutally raping and murdering 7 women,including two fourteen year old girls.
Or at least he tried to accept it, but ironically the same state that gave him the sentence, would seem to do all they could to delay it, he was finally put to death 2 years ago.
These plethora of appeals that occur once a death penalty sentence is given in Connecticut are ironically required within our current system, whether or not the defendant wants to appeal. This is what wastes money, not the death penalty itself . Its clear to almost everyone that the judicial process surrounding all death penalty cases desperately needs restructuring so that we are no longer rendering our most serious criminal penalty useless via what amounts to bureaucratic, state financed stalling tactics.
While many of the opponents of the death penalty blithely claim that the death penalty is an insanely expensive prospect, once you look closely, this is mostly due to the dragged out appeals process which indeed, bogs down the courts, slows up the process and takes up our state-paid attorneys and prosecutors valuable time in the meantime.
And so, where does this leave us? While many of us agree that the death penalty is not working in its present form here in Connecticut, we recognize that the main reason is not an inherent flaw with the concept itself but rather because its been literally hijacked by defense attorneys, and swallowed up in bureaucracy, thereby collecting dust at the bottom of our states judicial broom closet.
As a survivor of violent crime,and one who advocates for crime victims, I adamantly believe that we must preserve the right to exercise this, our most serious of sentences, for the most serious of crimes committed against us.
The "us" here represents our neighbors, our loved ones, our brethren-our friends. No one ever thinks that violent crime will come to visit upon them, yet we are the people that comprise this state and as such, we are all potential victims.
As a state and a people, we cannot afford to continue drawing the line of criminal accountability farther and farther away from anything resembling justice.
The old adage ' give an inch, take a mile' would seem to be written with defense attorneys and violent criminals in mind; experience has shown us that many will take whatever they can get -and then some-- out of our justice system. There is no moral compass, no reasonableness, none of the decency that we are accustomed to expect from fellow human beings. Certainly accountability and justice are merely vapid words to most lawyers. They often hide manipulation and deceitfulness behind the mantra that "every person deserves a fair trial .." and our courts have literally followed suit, As the lawyers manipulated the law and the process, our prosecutors and judges had to scramble to "keep up" in effect. The result is what we see today a system that has become corrupted. It didn't happen all at once, it happened in small increments, bit by bit.
If we make life without parole the worst possible sentence in the state of Connecticut, it is only a matter of time before lawyers and other like- minded individuals will be insisting that a life sentence with zero possibility of parole is cruel and unusual. And following suit, there will be a move to ban this punishment in lieu of life sentence with the possibility of parole. And on it will go.
And this is saying nothing of the deterrence effect that the death penalty may have upon a would be criminal, And what might happen when the possibility of garnering this severe sentence is no longer a viable concern to any would be murderer. As it is now, It certainly has not helped our states present situation that we so rarely impose the death penalty here; career criminals are well aware of this, they are aware of the rarity of the sentence itself as well as the obscenely long time that murderers languish on "death row" once they have been actually sentenced. Decades and decades. Many die in prison whilst waiting for that sentence, which is never delivered.
In a recent public meeting concerning the Death Penalty abolition, Connecticut's head prosecutor Kevin Kane, shared about having to stand by and watch while years and years go by and the fathers and mothers of murder victims die themselves, often from natural causes, long before their loved ones killer is given his sentence!
These families lives are first utterly traumatized by the horror of the violent crimes against their loved ones, and then put on a terrible stasis, waiting for a trial that takes years before even commencing. Case in Point, Dr William Petit will have to wait at least 3 years before the trial begins for the two men accused of killing his wife and children in July 2007. The current word is that Jury selection is slated to begin early 2010.
Again, experience dictates that in most criminal cases, the first estimates for trial dates are almost always pushed back several times over. This is usually at the bequest of the DEFENSE and again, acquiesced to by the presiding judge, who is in effect blackmailed in granting these delays, lest a mistrial later be awarded, due to a claim (by the defense) of inadequate trial preparation time.
The incessant delays that have become rote practice within our courts leave the victims and thier families in a state of suspended healing, forced to hold onto vivid memories of the crimes and the emotions connected to them during a time period where they should be allowed their already- difficult healing process.
This process will be unnaturally put on hold the moment a jury selection begins for the criminal trial of his families killers. And With this current DP abolition proposal, people like Dr Petit and his family may have to suffer the additional emotional insult of having the original death penalty sentence that was officially sought by the states attorneys handling the case, thrown out and changed to a life term in prison in its stead/ Although the death penalty was not going to bring the Petit and hawke families a perfect sense of solace or closure, it would serve as a viable sense of justice for their family members cruelly robbed lives.
Chief prosecutor kevin kane also concurred that the lengthy appeals process is but one of several areas that needs to be revamped within the states current death penalty system. While clearly a believer in the death penalty and against statewide abolition, he realizes that it isnt working in its current form.
I will be writing more about this crucial issue over the following days and weeks. For those of you who feel strongly about keeping the death penalty sentence as an option in Connecticut's courts, please click on the link below and sign your name to the petition, it will be presented in the near future to the lawmakers of the state.
Let your voice be heard.