Monday was the second time in three years that Connecticut legislators debated a repeal of the death penalty.
According to the Hartford Courant, Rep. Steve Mikutel, said he cannot understand how the legislature could contemplate repealing the death penalty when the overwhelming majority of state residents support it.
Innocence Project co-director Barry Scheck was also featured at the hearing.
Scheck said he will leave the moral and religious arguments against the death penalty to others. His opposition is based primarily on two factors: Innocent people can wind up on death row, and the enormous resources it costs to implement the death penalty would be far better spent on better forensics testing and other law enforcement tools.
“Reasonable people can certainly differ as to whether or not capital punishment is a morally appropriate sanction for the most heinous of crimes,” Scheck told the committee.
But the public policy decision to have a death penalty has broad repercussions, Scheck said. It is a costly endeavor to sentence a person to death, given the lengthy appeals process.
“Let’s have an honest debate about this,” he said. “You spend more money on the death penalty, you take away money from public safety. … We could solve more rape cases, we could solve more robberies … if we had more money to put into that instead of the death penalty.”
Scheck also cautioned lawmakers about believing that the criminal justice system is infallible. Not so long ago, most experts believed that fingerprints were the gold standard of proof, but forensic experts now believe that fingerprints can sometimes lead investigators down a flawed trail, he said.
There have been seventeen people proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit.
The committee will vote on the repeal in coming weeks.
Read about the
Innocence Project’s position on the death penalty
and learn about those who were
sentenced to die and later exonerated through DNA testing