Friday, March 11, 2011

Testimony - Repeal the Death Penalty

Testimony to the Joint Committee on Judiciary
March 7, 2011
In Support of SB 1035, An Act Repealing the Death Penalty

Joelle Fishman

The issue of abolishing the death penalty is being debated and acted on in several states. It is being commented on by national personalities in the judicial and religious fields.

For us in Connecticut, the debate has been clouded by the heinous crime in Cheshire. However, the issue looms larger than one unthinkable tragedy.

There have been other tragedies when innocent men and women have been executed only later to have been found innocent by DNA or other scientific evidence. There is no way for the state to return a life wrongfully taken. And those who are on death row are disproportionately people of color and poor.

Last December, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Steven, a former supporter of the death penalty, wrote in the New York Times that he now opposes capital punishment because it is "shot through with racism, skewed toward conviction, infected with politics and tinged with hysteria."

Writing in agreement, columnist Bob Herbert who covered many death penalty cases said, "The death penalty in the United States has never been anything but an abomination — a grotesque, uncivilized, overwhelmingly racist affront to the very idea of justice."

This Thursday, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to Governor Quinn of Illinois urging him to sign the legislation on his desk to abolish the death penalty.

Referring to statements by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II that ending the death penalty is "a sign of greater respect for all human life," Bishop Blaire said that abolishing the death penalty will "help to begin building a culture of life in our country."

Bishop Blaire quoted from the U.S. bishops' document "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death" stating "Even when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior. Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts. Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity."

Here in Connecticut life in prison without parole is a possible sentence. Governor Malloy stated during his campaign that if he were elected and if legislation to abolish the death penalty reached his desk he would sign it.

Let us not lose this opportunity to strengthen the justice in our justice system. Please support SB 1035, An Act Repealing the Death Penalty.

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