Abolition advocates, who came so close earlier this year toward reaching their goal, gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Sunday afternoon to renew their efforts.
Disappointed, but driven to abolish the death penalty, advocates spoke passionately about the need to educate the public and lawmakers.
“If we can get the facts out about the death penalty, we will win,” Andrew Schneider, executive director of the Connecticut ACLU, said Sunday.
After spending hours debating capital punishment this past May, the Connecticut House voted 90 to 56 and the Senate voted 19 to 17, in favor of abolition. Then on June 5, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the measure.
“Our governor has vowed to keep the death penalty the way it is in the state of Connecticut,” Scot Esdalie, president of the Connecticut NAACP, said. “The governor knows there’s no credible evidence that the death penalty reduces crime.”
Recounting the vote in both chambers, Esdalie said “we have some work to do in the Senate.”
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the freshman legislator who introduced the bill this year, said in order to get it passed “you need to get rid of the governor.” He said no matter how many minds they change in the Senate, the governor remains a major hurdle.
Holder-Winfield said when he met with Rell prior to her veto she agreed with him that the death penalty was not a deterrent. Then just days later she specifically cited it as such in her veto message.
“There is no doubt that the death penalty is a deterrent to those who contemplate such monstrous acts,” Rell wrote in her veto message.
Schneider said people commit murder largely in the heat of passion or under the influence of drugs. “There’s no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent,” he said.
Not only is it not a deterrent, advocates like Rev. Walter Everett said it hinders the healing process.
“I realized that I could not heal as long as I sought vengeance,” Everett whose son was murdered in Bridgeport in 1987 said. He said telling his son’s killer “I forgive you” was the only thing that led to his healing.
“I’ve got to be honest I didn’t feel good about it,” Everett said. “I didn’t like him at all.”
Now Everett and his son’s killer often speak together about the difference God made in both of their lives.
“To kill somebody to prove that its wrong to kill somebody doesn’t make any sense,” Everett said.
He said one of the most effective ways to change minds is to speak individually to legislators, changing one mind at a time.
“I am convinced that the death penalty does not deliver on any of the promises that claim to be the very source of its strength,” George Kain, a member of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty board, said.
Deacon Arthur Miller, director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries, said his church is known for it’s pro-life stance. And that includes being against capital punishment, he said.
Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, conference minister of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, said Jesus Christ was executed by the state so she doesn’t know how anyone who claims to be Christian can stand against capital punishment.
“I understand that all too human desire for revenge,” Crabtree said. “I understand the roots of fear that are placed in out hearts.”
“But I am here this afternoon to say fear and revenge are no foundation for a civilized society,” she said.