Release Date: April 28, 2011
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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Victims’ Rights Groups Hail Victory

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has released a report examining the death penalty in Connecticut and the claims made by those proposing repeal.  The report finds that capital cases in Connecticut are remarkably free of the problems that prompted repeal in Illinois.

The report, entitled “Mend It, Don’t End It,” examines the cases in which the death penalty has been imposed in the state.  All the defendants were clearly guilty, and all the homicides were clearly aggravated.  There are no cases where the prosecution’s case for guilt rested on the kinds of evidence that have produced erroneous convictions in other states.

The report also addresses claims that death penalty prosecutions in the state are racially biased and that repeal of the death penalty would result in substantial savings of tax dollars.  Both claims are found to be unsupported by solid evidence.

“Capital trials in Connecticut have been remarkably clean,” said the Foundation’s Legal Director Kent Scheidegger.  “The only real problem is the extreme and unnecessary delay in review of the cases, and that problem can be readily fixed,” he added.

Claims that the death penalty is imposed discriminatorily against black defendants are refuted by the opponents’ own studies in Connecticut, as in other states.  Claimed disparities based on the race of the victim have vanished in most studies when the legitimate factors are properly controlled.  The number of cases in Connecticut is too small to do this kind of statistical control, but there is no reason to think that Connecticut is more biased than other states in this regard.

The report notes that an accurate comparison of the expense of retaining the death penalty versus repeal should include the substantial savings when murderers plead guilty to avoid a death sentence and the high cost of providing medical care to older inmates serving life terms.  CJLF’s study showed that 19% of murder cases in death penalty states ended with a plea bargain with a life or long sentence, while only 5% of murder cases were resolved this way in states with no death penalty.

“The years of unnecessary delay in Connecticut’s review process creates most of the burden associated with the state’s death penalty,” said Scheidegger.  “If the Connecticut General Assembly were willing to make the kinds of reforms enacted in Virginia, for example, the review in cases of clear guilt could be completed in five or six years, not twenty,” he said.

The accompanying Executive Summary outlines the main points of the Foundation’s full report, which is available online at:

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.
Over the United States Supreme Court’s current term, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has helped win four precedent-setting decisions benefitting law enforcement and victims rights.