HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Three years after Connecticut abolished the death penalty for any future crimes, the state’s highest court on Thursday spared the lives of all 11 men who were already on death row when the law took effect, saying it would be unconstitutional to execute them.
Within minutes, a lawyer with the Chief Public Defender’s office said he was getting on the phone with his office’s clients to share the news.
“There will be no more death row,” said Michael Courtney, the leader of the office’s capital defense unit.
The ruling comes in an appeal from a 12th inmate, Eduardo Santiago, whose attorneys had argued that any execution carried out after the 2012 repeal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Santiago, whose first sentence was overturned, faced a second penalty hearing and the possibility of lethal injection for a 2000 murder-for-hire killing in West Hartford.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, agreed with his position, ruling that the death penalty “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.”
“For these reasons, execution of those offenders who committed capital felonies prior to April 25, 2012, would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.