Connecticut Abolishes the Death Penalty

On Wednesday, April 25th, 2012, the state of Connecticut abolished the death penalty. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty, making his state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal. The law is effective immediately, though prospective in nature, meaning that it would not apply to those already sentenced to death. It replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release as the state’s highest form of punishment.

“Although it is an historic moment — Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action — it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration,” Malloy said in a statement. He added that the “unworkability” of Connecticut’s death penalty law was a contributing factor in his decision.

Activists know that human rights victories only come after years of hard work. Yesterday a simple stroke of the Governor Dannel Malloy’s pen sealed the deal to end the death penalty in Connecticut, but that state’s remarkable achievement for human rights was decades in the making. In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty. California voters will decide the issue in November. State by state, the battle against capital punishment marches on in the US.

The US criminal justice system is based on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the foundation of our justice system, built to serve and protect the wrongly accused. But in the case of Troy Davis and countless others on death row, it’s a principle that was defied, ignored, and trampled on. As Troy Davis wrote in a letter when he was facing execution in 2008 :” … no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe.

With the recent decision to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut, we have moved one step closer to dismantling our unjust criminal justice system city by city, state by state and country by country. Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have been seeking to do just that for decades. Specifically, these organizations have been quite successful in raising awareness about the problems with criminal justice system and the need to end the death penalty. The number of persons supporting their work is growing as demonstrated in the case of Troy Davis. Their petition seeking clemency in the Troy Davis case was signed by almost one million persons. NAACP and Amnesty International have experienced steady progress in this important undertaking to end the death penalty. However, the Troy Davis case reminds us that more work needs to be done to end the death penalty across our nation.

The collective work done on Troy Davis’ case resounded with people all over the world. Next stop for the abolition of the death penalty nationwide is California, a state poised to make history this fall by ending its death penalty through a referendum. The struggle continues. But with each victory, we, as a nation, come closer to a world where human rights are respected, and executions are a thing of the past.

For further information on how you can get involved in efforts to end the penalty nationwide, please visit the websites for Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Equal Justice USA, and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Sources: Amnesty International, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Connecticut State Death Penalty Abolition, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/25/justice/connecticut-death-penalty-law-repealed/index.html. Equal Justice USA. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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