HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The 11 men on Connecticut’s death row, including the Cheshire home invasion murderers, can never be executed. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that the law that repealed the death penalty going forward, but kept it on the books for those already convicted, violates the state constitution.
There was so much public outrage over the Cheshire home invasion murders that advocates for repealing the death penalty knew they could never get repeal passed unless they excluded convicted murderers Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky along with nine others on death row, so they repealed the death penalty prospectively, going forward. Many said that would be overturned in the courts and that’s exactly what happened Thursday.
The state’s highest court’s decision had been predicted and expected ever since the law repealing the state’s death penalty statute was passed in 2012.
The entire debate had been overshadowed by the July 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the brutal murders of a mother and two of her children. The two men responsible had just been sentenced to the death penalty when the repeal bill came for a vote.
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In order to get enough votes to pass in the state Senate, advocates for the repeal crafted language that said those already on death row would not be affected. Life in prison would only be for future crimes.
On the day before the vote, the lone survivor of of the crime, Dr. William Petit, went to the Capitol to say that the bill was a sham.
“Prospective repeal of the death penalty is false, there’ll be multiple appeals for people on death row,” he said back then.
Despite that prediction from Dr. Petit and many others, the Senate passed the bill the next day. The House followed a week later despite an impassioned plea from the highly regarded Minority Leader that the bill made no sense.
“The bill that’s before us says something that at least, with due respect, to my mind is illogical and in my opinion impossible,” House Minority Leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk said on the floor of the House in 2012.
Governor Malloy, who openly supported the prospective repeal, quickly signed it.
“I think that the law of Connecticut as decided by the Supreme Court is that, is recognition that we didn’t have a working death penalty statute to begin with,” he said Thursday.
There has been only one execution in the past 50 years, and that came because serial killer Michael Ross gave up his appeals and wanted to be executed.