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Challenging Connecticut's Prospective Death Penalty Repeal

Diane Orson


Connecticut’s Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty repeal. The law ends capital punishment for future crimes only.

Connecticut repealed the death penalty last year, but ten men who were on death row before the law passed still face execution.

Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher told the court that is unconstitutional.  

"Once the legislature has said no more death penalty we should all be able to agree that we don’t make decisions on who lives and who dies based upon something as arbitrary as the date of the repeal."

Rademaker acknowledged that new laws must draw the line somewhere.

"That may be tolerable in all other areas of legislation, but it's not tolerable when you’re dealing with the death penalty, because there are special rules that apply to capital punishment that require the distinctions to be moral and meaningful and related to the crime and the offender."

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Harry Weller argued that the court should either uphold or invalidate the entire thing, "Because you can’t separate it. You can’t make those legislative choices. Those are for another constitutional branch of government - elected representatives of people of the state."

Weller said the debate about the death penalty is political and Connecticut has done something unusual by acting incrementally to end capital punishment.  He said legislatures around the country are watching.  

A ruling is expected in the coming months. 

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