After a two-year review, the Connecticut Supreme Court banned capital punishment in the state, saying the death penalty no longer comports with evolved societal values and serves no valid purpose as punishment, the Hartford Courant reports. The 4-3 decision removes 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row and overturns a 2012 political compromise that barred death sentences going forward but allowed the execution of inmates already sentenced. Dissenting justices accused the court’s majority of substituting its judgment on evolving values for that of an elected legislature and governor. For the majority, Justice Richard Palmer found flaws in the 2012 death penalty law. “In light of the governing constitutional principles and Connecticut’s unique historical and legal landscape, we are persuaded that, following its prospective abolition, this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose,” Palmer wrote. “For these reasons, execution of those offenders who committed capital felonies prior to April 25, 2012, would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”
The case was based on an appeal by Eduardo Santiago, who was convicted of taking an inoperable snowmobile as payment in a murder for hire. The high court said that Santiago was improperly sentenced to death, but used the case as a means of examining the legality of the General Assembly’s 2012 revision of the death penalty and whether the revision is consistent with two centuries of evolving law and morality in Connecticut. Chief Justice Chase Rogers wrote in dissent that “every step” of the majority’s opinion was “fundamentally flawed.” “The majority’s determination that the death penalty is unconstitutional under our state’s constitution is based on a house of cards, falling under the slightest breath of scrutiny,” Rogers wrote.