Reprieve urges US Governor Jodi Rell to reverse her decision to veto the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut

May 28, 2009

Reprieve is disappointed by Connecticut Governor Mary Jodi Rell’s decision to veto an attempted repeal of the state’s death penalty statute, despite the bill’s having passed through both chambers of the legislature.

The Governor’s decision was based on her belief 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.”

This position is unusual for the Republican governor, who has previously maintained that she will never decide on a veto until the bill has arrived in her office and she has read the details.

The Governor announced the intended veto a few hours after the vote in the Senate, which followed an eleven hour debate lasting until 4am. The Republican majority made various attempts to filibuster the bill, talking about subjects as tangential as fishing trips and the history of World War Two, and filing 26 amendments.

In end 19 Senators voted for the bill and 17 against, while it passed through the House of Representatives 90 to 56. In order to override the Governor’s veto, the bill needs the support of two-thirds of both houses, which it does not currently have.

Under Jodi Rell’s governorship, Connecticut performed the first execution in New England in the last 48 years – Michael Ross in 2005. In the last three years, two wrongly convicted men have been exonerated after new DNA evidence emerged.

The repeal campaign has the support of a number of victims’ family members, including Rev. Walter Everett, whose son was murdered in 1987 and who said: “We know that the death penalty never provides any closure for any family member. It doesn’t bring a loved one back. I don’t want to see another parent suffer and I don’t want to see another life taken”.

Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “It is extremely disappointing that Governor Jodi Rell should have so little respect for the clear will of both Houses of the state legislature, and decide so prematurely to veto this bill. I sincerely hope she will change her mind, and allow the barbaric practise of execution to be consigned to the Connecticut history books.”

93 countries have now abolished the death penalty, most recently the West African nation of Togo. The bill will likely be presented to the governor within the next week.


For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:


Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Death penalty in Connecticut: There are 10 death row inmates in Connecticut, and there are just under 50 other Capital cases at various stages of the Connecticut courts. If the death penalty statute were repealed, the maximum sentence would be replaced with life without the possibility of parole. The current bill would not act retroactively, however, and so would not affect the 10 men awaiting execution.

Governor Mary Jodi Rell:Governor Jodi Rell assumed the office in 2004 after the previous governor’s resignation over corruption charges. She won a four year term in 2006, with 63% of the vote, and will is expected to seek re-election in 2010. Her popularity remains high, around 70%.

In the November 2008 legislature election, the Democrats gained a two-thirds majority control of both Houses of the state legislature.

Other vetoes by the Governor since she took office in July 2004 include one in June 2007 on a Democratic plan to increase income tax and a bill in May 2008 to raise the minimum wage (successfully overridden in June 2008). The Governor vetoed five other bills in 2008.

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