Crucial vote today on abolishing state's death penalty

HARTFORD (AP) -- Connecticut lawmakers are once again gearing up to vote on the high-profile death penalty repeal bill.

Senate President and Democrat Donald E. Williams Jr., of Brooklyn, said Tuesday that the Senate will vote on the bill Wednesday.

The proposed bill would abolish the death penalty for all future cases, but would not directly affect the sentences of current death row inmates.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he will support the bill.

In 2009, a death penalty repeal bill passed the Legislature, but was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Last year, a similar effort failed in the Senate.

Last month, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee approved by a 24-19 vote legislation similar to a measure that passed the committee last year, but never reached the Senate floor for a vote. It was doomed after state Sens. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, and Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, announced they would not support the measure after meeting with Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of the 2007 Cheshire home invasion and triple slaying.

The Cheshire home invasion slayings were viewed as creating a hostile environment for repealing the law. Both of the defendants in that case were found guilty and were sentenced to death row.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that researches death penalty issues, reports that 34 states now have capital punishment laws while 16 do not.

There are 11 inmates sitting on death row in Connecticut. The state has carried out only one execution in 51 years, when serial killer Michael Ross was administered lethal injection in 2005.

Last month, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 62 percent of Connecticut residents do not support repealing the death penalty.