The Connecticut Supreme Court held in a 4-3 decision issued Aug. 13, that the execution of inmates who committed capital felonies before the state abolished the death penalty in 2012 would violate Connecticut's constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The ruling blocks the state from proceeding with the executions of the 11 men who remained on death row after the abolition of the death penalty. They will now serve life sentences without the possibility for release.
On April 25, 2012, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed Senate Bill 280 (2012), ending the state’s death penalty. The law changed “capital felonies” to “murder with special circumstances,” an offense now punishable by life in prison without the possibility of release. The law was not applied retroactively, which meant that the 11 inmates were left on death row.
The previous year, Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed an abolition bill, but it failed to pass out of the Senate. A key issue in the debate was the ongoing trials in the Cheshire home invasion case, during which a doctor was severely injured and his wife and their two teenage daughters were murdered. The first defendant had already been sentenced to death in the case but the second defendant’s trial was still pending, leaving many concerned that these men could not be sentenced to death.
Additionally, a bill to abolish the death penalty passed the legislature in 2009, but was vetoed by former Governor Jodie Rell.