NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Connecticut’s Supreme Court puts an end to all executions in the Nutmeg State

This is a great victory for human rights that deserves to be celebrated:

After a sweeping two-year review, the state Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in Connecticut, saying the state’s death penalty no longer comports with evolved societal values and serves no valid purpose as punishment.

The 4-3 decision would remove 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row and overturn the latest iteration of the state’s death penalty, a political compromise effective April 2012 that halted executions going forward but allowed death sentences to be imposed on the inmates already sentenced.

The majority decision, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer, found a host of flaws in the death penalty law, which banned “prospective” death sentences, those imposed after the effective date of the law. But the majority wrote that it chose to analyze capital punishment and impose abolition from a broad perspective.

Killing people as a punishment for the commission of a crime is barbaric, and we’re glad that death row in Connecticut is being shut down for good.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found that the death penalty is unconstitutional under the Nutmeg State’s own constitution, which means there aren’t grounds for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. (It is a generally held principle of constitutional law that state constitutions may provide additional rights and liberties beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides, but they cannot provide less).

The decision leaves New Hampshire as the only state in New England where the death penalty remains in effect. With the exception of Alaska and Hawaii, no state west of the Rockies has abolished the death penalty, unless New Mexico is counted. We have work to do on that front here in the Pacific Northwest.

Governor Jay Inslee has declared a moratorium on the death penalty (to the consternation of many Republicans, who want the state to kill its death-row prisoners despite claiming to be “pro-life”), but a moratorium is not abolition.

There are currently nine inmates on death row in Washington, eleven in Idaho, and thirty-four in Oregon. Neighboring Montana only has two.

Across the United States, the total number stands at three thousand.

Yes, you read that correctly: Close to three thousand people have had death sentences pronounced upon them by the federal government or a state government and are waiting to be killed. This is the United States, the supposed beacon of freedom, liberty, and human rights, and we’ve got three thousand people sitting in prisons who have been condemned to death! How can we lecture other countries about human rights when we don’t practice what we preach ourselves?

It is worth noting that Washington and Idaho have each had one innocent person – yes, one innocent person – exonerated and freed from death row after it was proven they did not commit the crime for which they were to be killed.

The struggle for abolition must and will continue in this country.

If Nebraska can abolish the death penalty, as it recently did, surely we here in Washington and Oregon (and Idaho) can do it too. It won’t be easy, but it is a just and moral cause that we must rededicate ourselves to.

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