Thursday, August 9, 2012

Capital Punishment in Connecticut

So, what is capital punishment? How does it effect us? And, who deserves this verdict? These are good questions, and I will try my best to answer them. Though, to make it easier, I restricted myself to capital punishment in relation to the state of Connecticut(mainly do to resent events there).
Capital Offences are punishable by death in “58 different countries “ (Introducation).  This Capital punishment, as it is known, is a practice that has been used in most societies dating as far back as human history, though now it is a practice that is carried out under legal systems and courts. But what is the purpose of this punishment? It is often human nature to seek revenge for wrong doing. An eye for an eye, if it were. These countries believe that high crimes, such as aggravated murder, treason, drug trafficking, and espionage are crimes that can only be paid with the life on the wrong doer.  Capital Punishment is a punishment that has been a seat for much debate over the decades. There are those who are in favor and those that strongly oppose capital punishment.  Each of the United States has their own set of laws and regulations regarding this issue. And over the past decade many states have decided to go out of favor for this penalty. In recent news, Connecticut has recently gone to become the 17th state to abolish the death penalty (Introduction). But what was the journey like that got us to this point?
Let us explore the history of the death penalty for a bit. Where did it come from? And when did it first become part of American law? Well, Britain had a lot to do with it. Britain influenced America’s use of “of the death penalty more than any other country” (Introduction). European settlers brought the practice with them when they settled into the new world. And the first recorded execution was that of “Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1608” (Introduction). And, in the state of Connecticut, it has been part of law since we became a state in 1788. In the time between then, up till 2005, the state of Connecticut has had 126 executions (Capital).  Many of which consisted of death by hanging till 1937 when James McElroy was executed by the Electric chair, and Michael Ross by lethal Injection in 2005 (Capital). The last execution for rape was conducted in 1817, and the last public execution happened in 1833.  Since 1830, murder is the only capital crime for which anyone has been executed in the state of Connecticut. Federal court decisions since the late 1950s, particularly the strictures of Furman v. Georgia (1972) expanded defendants’ rights. And,  for the last half century, Connecticut has retain the death penalty, but the “appeals process is of such long duration that only convicts such as Joseph Taborsky in 1960 and Michael Ross in 2005, who waived their rights and “volunteered” for death, have been executed” (Kirk). The state of Connecticut has had a long and bumpy ride when it has come to the death penalty.
            While the death penalty was recently repealed the death penalty, it is not the first time that Connecticut has been without it. But then again, the Furman v. Georgia case had that affect.  Connecticut reinstated the death penalty on January 10, 1973 (Capital). But since that reinstatement, only one person has been executed, and that was the serial Killer and rapist Michael Bruce Ross on May 13, 2005 (Capital). Ross was convicted of the “kidnapping, rape, and murder of four teenage girls in New London, Connecticut in 1983 and 1984” (Michael). Ross was a serial killer in every sense of the word. This was extremely apparent when he recounted his murders. But at trial, while Ross confessed to strangling the woman and sexually assaulting all but one of the them, he pleaded insanity (Michael). This plea did not hold up in court, and Ross was sentenced to death under the “statute enacted by the Connecticut state legislature seven years prier” (Michael). The main problem regarding Ross, though, was his willingness to die. He demonstrated his instability by appealing many different times to be executed or retried. When he would do so, he was deemed unfit for execution, since he was not in the right state of mind.  It was not until he was relatively stabilized on medications, and he no longer showed mental instability, that the state of Connecticut when ahead with his sentence of death. And on May, 13 2005, Michael Bruce Ross was executed via lethal injection.
            It is because of murders like Ross that there are just as many people for capital punishment as there are against it. Advocates of the death penalty argue that it is an important for preserving law and order. They believe that it helps to deter crime. Another argument is the fact that the death penalty, in their opinion, costs less the life imprisonment. An “eye for an eye honors the victim, helps console grieving families, and ensures that the perpetrators of the crime” will never be able to cause future harm to others (Kirk). Pro’s for the death penalty are often labled to be out for revenge, and at many times this can be true. They want to see an equal justice, in their eyes, to be dished out.   
            If capital punishment is used to punish a person for doing such horrid crimes, like Michael Ross did, then why the constant stream of protests against it? Some people believe that the death penalty “violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law” (Bedeau). This was extremely apparent when execution was done by hangings, and later by electrocution, since both forms caused pain to the individual and did not always work the first time around. Some people make the argument that the state should not play God in determining who has the right to life or not. Then we have the criminal justice system itself. Many times when it comes to such a sentence, it comes down to the “skill of a defendants attorneys, the race of the victim, and where

the crime took place” that will play a major role on whether they will be charged with life or the death penalty (Bedeau). To many people, they argue, are wrongly sentenced to death as well due to this.  And other then the morals behind the sentence, people protest that it is a waste of taxpayers’ money.  Often these criminals are in jail for a long period of time before they ever get executed.
            Many of these issues have led to the repeal of the death penalty in the state of Connecticut; though it took some persuasion to get there. Connecticut legislature passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in 2009, but that bill was vetoed by Governor M. Jodi Rell. And then once again, it was brought up by legislature in 2012, and this time it passed (Introduction). On April 25, 2012, Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law that repeals the death penalty; thus making Connecticut the 17th state to do such. This new law “does not apply to the 11 inmates who are currently on death row in the state” though (Kirk). 
            Because of this repeal, criminal can no longer be sentenced to death, but those eleven will still be. Most notable of those eleven, are Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky  , the two men guilty of the Cheshire Home invasion that took place in July of 2007 (***).  Steven was convicted in October 2011 while Joshua was in January 2012. These criminals planned on simply robbing the house, but instead it turned into one of the worst multiple murders that the state of Connecticut has ever seen (Cheshire). They beat William Petit at gun point, and restrained him. They then forced Hawke Petit to withdraw $15,000, and purchase $10 in gasoline. When Hawke was taken back to her house, it was to be  raped by Hayes, and witness her 11 year old daughters sexal assault. Hawke was then strangled by Hayes when he learned

that her husband, William, had escaped. They then set fire to the house after tying the daughters, still alive, to their beds.  It is one the worst crimes that the state of Connecticut has seen, and it will do down in history, for both its horridness and for being the last crime committed that led to the death penalty (Cheshire).
            The state of Connecticut has a long history with capital punishment, from the early days of the first colonies in America, to recent tragic events. While some crimes have been so horrid that they have called for the death penalty. It can to the states conclusion that the benefits did not outweigh the costs. While, in my opinion, criminals like Michael Ross and the Cheshire home invaders deserved what was handed down to them, there have been so many other cases where the defendant was innocent, or it all came down to the skills of an attorney. Those against it argued that it was a waste of tax money, that it offered no type of deterrence to future criminals, and that it often can lead to the death of innocent parties. While, at the same time, those that are for it argue that an “eye for an eye” is the only way to go about this punishment. They strongly believe that it will act as a deterrence for future criminals . When it came down to the fact, Connecticut decided to do with that that offered up the most benefit. A majority if the voters in the state of Connecticut   So, it has come down to the fact that the state of Connecticut has repealed the death penalty for the benefit.

Work Citied:
Bedeau, Hugo. “The Case Against the Death Penalty.”ACLU. American Civil Liberties Union 2011. Web.
                01 April 2012.
“Capital Punishment in Connecticut.” Connecticut State Library. Connecticut State 2002-2012. Web.
                02 May 2012.
“Cheshire Home Invasion Archive.” Courant. Hartford Courant. 2012 Web. 05 May 2012.

“Introduction to the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty Information Center. Death Penalty Information 2012.
                Web.  25 April 2012.
Kirk, Michael. “The History of the Death Penalty in Connectiucut.” UConn Today. University of
                Connecticut 2012. Web. 3 May 2012.
“Michael Bruce Ross.” Clark Prosecutor. Clark Prosecutor. 2012. Web. 26 April 2012.  

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