Conn. legislature approves repeal of death penalty

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Last week the state Senate voted in favor of the bill after nearly 11 hours of debate.

Before the vote, Democratic Senators amended the bill to require that individuals convicted under the new legislation would be subject to prison conditions similar to those of death row inmates.

The House voted in favor of the Senate amendment.

Many officials insisted on that as a condition of their support for repeal in a state where two men were sentenced to death for a gruesome 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

Despite passing the two Senate amendments, House members voted down a total of 11 amendments, including a measure proposed by the Waterbury delegation that would preserve the death penalty for individuals convicted of killing a police officer.

The amendment came in response to the 1992 murder of Waterbury Police Officer Walter T. Williams III. His killer, Richard Reynolds, currently sits on death row.

Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, and Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, who was a Waterbury police officer when Williams was shot in the line of duty, broke party lines to vote in support of the amendment and against the death penalty repeal bill.

During the debate Berger said he believes the death penalty is an important tool for prosecutors in murder cases and as a way of deterring crime.

Death penalty legislation never made it to the Senate floor for a vote last year after some senators voiced concern about acting when the second of two suspects in that case was still facing trial.

In the past five years, four other states have abolished the death penalty — New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. Repeal proposals are also pending in several other states including Kansas and Kentucky, while advocates in California have gathered enough signatures for an initiative to throw out the death penalty that is expected to go before voters in November.

Connecticut has carried out only one execution in 51 years, when serial killer Michael Ross was administered lethal injection in 2005 after giving up his appeal rights.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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