Preserving capital punishment for crimes committed before the legislature’s abolishment of the death penalty is at odds with “evolving” standards of decency in Connecticut, reports the Hartford Courant. An attorney for convicted killer Eduardo Santiago makes that argument in a legal filing this week to the state Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the issue of whether the repeal of the death penalty can apply only to future crimes. Executing someone after the repeal would be “unprecedented,” Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher said in a supplemental brief filed on behalf of Santiago, who faces the death penalty for the killing of Joseph Niwinski in West Hartford in December 2000.
No one faces execution in New Jersey and Illinois after recent death penalty repeals in those states, and New Mexico has not carried out any executions since a 2009 repeal even though a former governor of that state declined to commute the death sentences of two remaining condemned killers, Rademacher wrote. Governors in New Jersey and Illinois commuted the existing death sentences after the repeals in those states. In New Mexico, the two remaining death sentences continue to be challenged and no execution dates have been set. According to Connecticut law, the Board of Pardons and Paroles — not the governor — has the authority to commute a death sentence to life in prison. Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in April but kept in place the death sentences imposed on the 11 current death-row inmates.