Today's Hartford Courant reports, "Execution After Death Penalty Repeal "Unprecedented," State Supreme Court Told." It's by Alaine Griffin. Here's an extended excerpt:
Preserving capital punishment for crimes committed before the legislature's abolishment of the death penalty is at odds with "evolving" standards of decency in Connecticut, an attorney for convicted killer Eduardo Santiago said in a legal filing this week to the state Supreme Court which has agreed to take up the issue of whether the repeal of the death penalty can apply only to future crimes.
Executing someone after the repeal would be "unprecedented," Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher said in a supplemental brief filed on behalf of Santiago, who faces the death penalty for the killing of Joseph Niwinski in West Hartford in December 2000.
No one faces execution in New Jersey and Illinois after recent death penalty repeals in those states and New Mexico has not carried out any executions since a 2009 repeal even though a former governor of that state declined to commute the death sentences of two remaining condemned killers, Rademacher wrote.
Governors in New Jersey and Illinois commuted the existing death sentences after the repeals in those states. In New Mexico, the two remaining death sentences continue to be challenged and no execution dates have been set. According to Connecticut law, the Board of Pardons and Paroles -- not the governor -- has the authority to commute a death sentence to life in prison.
Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in April but kept in place the death sentences imposed on current death-row inmates.
"A search of the historical record has revealed no jurisdiction in the history of the United States that executed an offender after renouncing capital punishment," Rademacher wrote. "An execution carried out in the face of this judgment would plainly be cruel and unusual punishment and would violate the statutory prohibition against arbitrary death sentences and the constitutional prohibitions against arbitrary criminal laws that are unsupported by legitimate penological objectives."
Executing someone in a state that has renounced capital punishment is "inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency," Rademacher argues. "When state lawmakers had the opportunity to vote for an amendment that would 'send a message' that carrying out existing death sentences took priority over abolishing capital punishment, a majority of them chose instead to send the message that abolition was their paramount goal," he wrote.
The state Supreme Court agreed in September to take up the new law's prospective issue when it granted a request by Santiago, whose death sentence was overturned in June, for written briefs and arguments that raise questions about the constitutionality of capital punishment for those who committed capital crimes before the law was passed last April.
The state has 60 days to respond. A hearing could be held sometime early next year.
Earlier coverage from Connecticut begins at the link.