Last week, religious leaders who had their say in Hartford supporting a bill that would abolish capital punishment in Connecticut. Those in support of keeping the law alive, held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building to promote a bill that would streamline Connecticut’s post-conviction process and shorten the appeals procedure for criminals who sit on death row.
“The people of Connecticut, by a strong majority, support the death penalty for the most heinous of crimes,” said State Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford, one of the supporters of the bill. “We must create a workable death penalty, so the crime victim’s families can have a reasonable expectation that the sentence will in fact be carried out.”
In fiery, at times emotional remarks, lawmakers, public safety workers and family members of murder victims spoke about the need to maintain the state’s capital punishment law, and hasten the appeals process in an effort to create a “workable death penalty” in Connecticut.
Dr. William Petit, who survived a brutal 2007 home invasion in Cheshire that resulted in the assault and murders of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, attended the event but he did not speak to the crowed.
“When an individual murders another individual, society must stand up and denounce this act, and if that act was so heinous that it warrants death then that individual chose their fate by his or her actions,” said Sgt. Rich Holton, president of the Hartford Police Union. “The death penalty is not about ‘an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth,’ it’s about protecting and safeguarding innocent victims - men, women, children and the elderly - from predators within society who do not have a moral compass and do not value life as the rest of society does. Is it too much to ask that these violent predators forfeit their lives when they did not give their victims a chance?”
In a March 10 Poll on the subject, 67 percent of Connecticut residents said they supported the death penalty, compared to 28 percent who said they opposed it.
Monday’s speakers urged Connecticut residents to contact their legislators if they felt adamant about maintaining the state’s death penalty and make their wishes known.
“It is critical that the death penalty not be repealed,” said Linda Binnenkade, a Windsor Locks resident whose brother-in-law, Barry Rossi, was killed as part of a triple homicide murder-for-hire plot in 2003. “There is a small group of legislatures who have decided and taken it upon themselves that this is the will of the Connecticut people. Overwhelmingly, surveys have shown the Connecticut people want the death penalty. They are going against our wishes and they are not representing our interests. People need to get involved. They need to call their senators.”
Binnenkade said prosecutors would not have been able to obtain convicts in her brother-in-law's murder without the death penalty, as it was used as bargaining tool against two of the four suspects who testified against the other two.
The death penalty has always been a hot button issue in Connecticut, but has risen in prominence since the Petit home invasion. One man, Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted of that crime in 2010 and sentenced to death, while another, Joshua Komisarjevsky, is currently on trial for the crime. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Komisarjevsky.
The legislature approved a bill to veto the death penalty in 2009, but then governor M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill, citing the Cheshire home invasion. During his campaign, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former federal prosecutor, repeatedly stated he was opposed to the death penalty and that he would sign a bill if approved to abolish it.
If the death penalty is abolished, it would not affect the sentence on Hayes or that of Komisarjevsky, if he is found guilty of the capital felony charges.