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May 16 2009 | UNITED STATES


House votes widely to abolish death penalty. Now a hard test through Senate and Governor

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House Votes To Abolish Death Penalty

Bill Moves On To State Senate

HARTFORD, Conn. -- A bill to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut passed through the House of Representatives with a clear margin Wednesday night.

The bill would replace the death sentence with a life sentence without chance of parole and easily passed in the House with a 90-56 vote, with five members abstaining.

"It's certainly relieving to someone who's sat on the Judiciary Committee for seven years and has seen year after year people coming to testify on an abolition bill who have been wrongfully convicted," said state Rep. Ryan Barry. "Connecticut is going to be fair. We're not going to exact revenge on people as a government. We're not going to have government-sanctioned revenge."

Ten years ago, Paul Laffin was murdered at the Hartford shelter where he worked. Despite his murder, Laffin's family members have been advocating to get rid of the death penalty. Laffin's brother said Wednesday that he was pleased with the House's vote.

Supporter Ben Jones told Eyewitness News he was also happy with the House's decision.

"So we say 'Get rid of it,' and stick people in jail -- it's a much faster process and better for victim's families," he said. "They can start healing much sooner."

Backers of the bill don't expect it to become law this year given challenges in the Senate and Gov. Rell's support of the death penalty.

House Minority Leader Larry Cafero said Wednesday night's vote goes against the wishes of families of crime victims like Dr. William Petit, whose wife and daughters were killed in a home invasion in their Cheshire home last year. Petit has spoken in favor of the death penalty.

"I think that I think it's not the proper message to send as the way we as a state deal with these kinds of heinous, depraved crimes," Cafero said. "I think it's the wrong statement at the wrong time."

Wednesday's vote marks the first time that any chamber of the state's General Assembly has voted to abolish capital punishment. A similar vote was easily defeated in 2005.

The vote came four years to the day that serial killer Michael Ross was put to death.

E-mail news tips to Eyewitness News, or dial: 866-289-0333.

Connecticut's latest breaking news is on and Channel 3 Eyewitness News. 

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