Christine Stuart photo

Just hours after the Senate gave final passage to a bill which would abolish the death penalty Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she will veto it.

“I appreciate the passionate beliefs of people on both sides of the death penalty debate. I fully understand the concerns and deeply held convictions of those who would like to see the death penalty abolished in Connecticut,” Rell said Friday morning after more than 11 hours of debate in the state Senate. “However, I also fully understand the anguish and outrage of the families of victims who believe, as I do, that there are certain crimes so heinous – so fundamentally revolting to our humanity – that the death penalty is warranted.”

“I will veto this bill as soon as it hits my desk,” Rell said unequivocally. But advocates to abolish the death penalty, including families of murder victims hoped to get a meeting with Rell to change her mind before the bill hits her desk.

Christine Stuart photo

“We know that the death penalty never provides any closure for any family member,” Rev. Walter Everett said Friday. “It doesn’t bring a loved one back.”

Everett whose son Scott was murdered in Bridgeport in 1987 said he too was once filled with rage and vengeance and it wasn’t until he forgave his son’s killer that he was able to find closure.

Gail Canzano of West Hartford who is a clinical psychologist and survivor of homicide herself said you can’t talk about abolishing the death penalty without thinking about Dr. William A. Petit. 

Petit is the lone survivor of the 2007 home invasion. Two parolees have been charged with the murder of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and two daughters, Hayley and Michaela. Since that time Petit has traveled to the state Capitol to advocate in favor of the death penalty and his testimony was recalled often during the recent debates in both the House and the Senate.

“I understand very well that there is no trauma like murder and there is no grief like homicide grief,” Canzano said. “I also know that when something like this touches us it ignites a powerful rage, individually and collectively. But we error as a society if we believe that the judicial system offers any real solution to the family members of murder victims.”

“The death penalty does not benefit the survivors of homicide,” Canzano said. “It unwittingly compounds their trauma.”

But Petit told Judiciary Committee in March that he supported the death penalty.

“My family got the death penalty and you want to give murderers life,” Petit said.

Canzano said it’s been less than two years since Dr. Petit’s wife and daughters were murdered. She opined that he is still in the early stages of healing. “This is a long process,” she said. “Dr. Petit is in the early stages of this.”

She said every victim has been where Dr. Petit is.  “All of us have been consumed by vengeance.”

“There are some things that can never be rectified no matter what we do,” Canzano said. “The healing process is long and arduous. Retribution is never the end point. When we realize futility of retribution that healing can succeed.”

“Retribution is never based on reason,” Canzano said.

Aside from the letter writing campaign advocates are seeking a face-to-face meeting with Rell. It’s not clear if she will grant one.

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the proponent of the bill said it’s incumbent upon Rell to meet with these victims if she thinks this is justice.

Ben Jones of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty said Rell will be contacted over the next few weeks by national leaders who support abolition of the death penalty.

The Senate voted 19-17 and the House voted 90-56 to abolish the death penalty. Neither of the votes are enough to override a gubernatorial veto. It’s expected Rell won’t officially receive the bill for at least two weeks, at which time she will have about 10 days to veto it.

Click here to read about the debate in the Senate and here to read about the debate in the House.