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Connecticut Capital Punishment News
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    Connecticut Capital Punishment News

    Lawyer Presses For Death Row Inmates' Rights

    Death row inmates claim they are being denied access to group religious services, group recreation, use of gym equipment and visits with friends and family, amounting to a violation of their constitutional rights, according to a letter sent to the Department of Correction on Thursday from an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer.

    Additionally, the men say they are also denied the chance to send photographs of themselves to loved ones, as other inmates are allowed, or to walk unshackled during certain times, including to and from the shower, as are other inmates who are in the highest risk level.

    The death row inmates are housed at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.

    Such conditions prompted the inmates to go on a hunger strike last May. "Officials have both verbally and in writing promised to secure certain privileges for the death row inmates in exchange for the cessation of the most recent hunger strike," wrote the lawyer, David McGuire. "A number of these promises have not been fulfilled."

    Brian Garnett, Department of Correction spokesman, said he could not comment on the letter because he had not seen it. Garnett and department Commissioner Theresa Lantz attended a legislative hearing Thursday at the state Capitol on prison overcrowding that lasted more than 6 hours as of early evening.

    A death row inmate was involved in a recent assault on a correction officer. On Feb. 14, Lazale Ashby, who was recently sentenced to death for raping and murdering a Hartford woman, struck a correction officer, according to correction officials.

    While McGuire's letter does not address the Ashby incident directly, he said it is unreasonable for the department to punish all inmates for the bad acts of one. "Like any body of inmates, one should not be punished for the acts of another," he said, adding that the denial of the inmates' rights dates from before Ashby was sentenced to death row.

    McGuire argues that it is unreasonable for the department to limit the inmates' privileges because of a 1998 suicide attempt by Michael Ross, who was executed in 2004, or because of a letter by inmate Daniel Webb plotting an escape attempt.

    Both group recreation and the opportunity to eat in a common room with other death row inmates were revoked in 1998, according to the letter.

    In addition to being denied religious services, inmates claim they were also told they could spend time once a week with a pastor, but those visits have not consistently been provided them, according to the letter. When the pastor is available, the inmates are denied face-to-face meetings and are forced to talk to him through their steel cell doors.

    "It cannot be asserted that safety concerns justify the denial of access because religious service is provided sporadically, and without relation to inmate behavior," the letter states.

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    Gubernatorial election could decide fate of death penalty

    Efforts by the Connecticut General Assembly to have the death penalty abolished in 2008 and 2009 hit a wall when Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill but with Rell's announcement she will not seek reelection, a change in leadership imminent and State Rep. Michael Lawlor said there could be a shift in the law.

    Lawlor said Friday there is more than enough bipartisan support in both the state's House and Senate to pass another bill to abolish the death penalty and if Rell's successor also supports abolishment, it won't be long before the law is repealed.

    "There have been many cases over the years in which the death penalty was discussed, but short of someone actually telling the court they want to die, it's largely been an ineffective law," said Lawlor, D-East Haven, chairman of House Judiciary Committee.

    With the jury selection starting in January for Steven Hayes, who along with suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky is facing the death penalty in a 2007 Cheshire home invasion in which police said the two killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley and Michaela Petit, the law has been a point of discussion in the general assembly again in 2010.


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    Support For Death Penalty At 10-Year High In CT

    Support for Connecticut’s death penalty has reached its highest point in more than a decade, and even some who generally oppose capital punishment say it’s appropriate for a man convicted in the 2007 deadly Cheshire home invasion, according to a new poll.
    LISTEN: WCBS 880 CT Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reportsQuinnipiac

    University’s poll, released Wednesday, found 65 percent of those surveyed support the death penalty. That’s up from 61 percent two years ago, and the highest number since the year 2000.

    It comes as Steven Hayes faces sentencing this month after being convicted of murder, rape and other charges for his part in the 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela.

    Prosecutors are asking jurors to send him to death row.
    Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack that killed his family and burned down his home, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty. He wants it imposed against Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, who awaits trial.

    The Quinnipiac poll results show many Connecticut voters share Petit’s view about Hayes, whose attorney plans to ask jurors to impose life in prison without parole.
    The pollsters did not ask specifically about voters’ views on Komisarjevsky’s fate if he is convicted, though they found 98 percent of those surveyed had read about the case.

    Three of every four people surveyed favored the death penalty for Hayes, with 18 percent against it and 6 percent undecided. Men were slightly more likely to support it than women.
    There are 10 inmates on death row in Connecticut, though one awaits a new trial based on legal questions over whether a baby was born dead or alive after he killed its mother.
    The last person executed in Connecticut was serial killer Michael Ross in 2005.

    The General Assembly approved a ban in 2009 on imposing the death penalty for future convictions - which would have included Hayes - but not retroactively for death row inmates, whose cases are in various stages of appeals.

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the ban, saying the state cannot tolerate people who commit particularly heinous murders.

    Connecticut hanged inmates until 1937, when it started using the electric chair. It switched to lethal injection in 1995.

    The last inmate executed before Ross in 2005 was Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky in 1960. Taborsky was electrocuted for a string of robberies and killings that left six people dead over four weeks in late 1956 and early 1957.

    Quinnipiac’s new poll was taken over five days starting Oct. 7, two days after Hayes was convicted in New Haven Superior Court. The survey included 1,721 registered Connecticut voters and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points in either direction.

    Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates have sparred over their stances on the death penalty, but the Quinnipiac poll found it did not matter much to voters.

    Only 6 percent of those surveyed said they would base their vote for governor solely on the person’s position on the death penalty. Republican Tom Foley supports capital punishment; Democrat Dan Malloy opposes it.


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    Death Penalty in CT Faces New Challenges

    With Governor-elect Dan Malloy in place, an anti-death penalty bill that was vetoed

    Connecticut's capital punishment garnered much attention after a jury sentenced Stephen Hayes, the convicted murderer in the Cheshire home invasion, to death.

    Now, Connecticut citizens can expect the General Assembly to re-examine the death penalty when it reconvenes next session. And because Governor-elect Dan Malloy, a former prosecutor, favors abolishing the statute, this legislature might succeed where the last failed.

    "It will be an important part of the discussion. I can pretty much guarantee the issue will be discussed," state Sen. Andrew McDonald (D-27), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Patch.

    It wouldn't be the first time the state legislature introduces such a bill. In 2009, the GA passed legislation to replace the death penalty with life sentence without the possibility of release. The state senate voted 19-17 to abolish the death penalty and the state house voted 90-56. However, Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill.

    "If Rell didn't veto the bill we would have abolished the death penalty by now. Governor-elect Malloy would sign the bill Rell vetoed, and from our perspective that's a positive sign," said Ben Jones, executive director of the Hartford-based Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty.

    Connecticut and New Hampshire are the only two states in New England to have a death penalty. Currently, 10 male inmates sit on death row at the level five, maximum security Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.

    After the U.S. Supreme Court 1976 decision in Gregg v. Georgia, Connecticut executed one person. Connecticut has had more than 4,700 murders, 14 death sentences, and one execution since 1973. The sole execution took place in 2005, when Michael Ross gave up his appeals.

    Jones conceded the budget ranks as issue number one and will likely occupy the bulk of the legislator's time. Moreover, the 2009 Senate vote was close, he said. So even with Malloy in office, there's no guarantee the statute will be overturned.

    "We'll talk to our allies up there," Jones said. "There are some strong champions on this issue."

    However, there are many state representatives and senators who support capital punishment in Connecticut.

    State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36) opposes any attempt to overturn the death penalty. Frantz, who represents Greenwich, New Canaan and Stamford, voted against the bill to abolish the death penalty in 2009. He would vote the same way again.

    "It probably will come up again," Frantz said. "They will change the law if the Governor can convince the legislators to overturn – I will remain consistent. I think the law should be kept as it is."

    According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, the majority of Nutmeg State voters also think the law should remain. Indeed, capital punishment support has reached a 10-year high.

    Voters favor the death penalty for Hayes, the convicted Cheshire home invasion murderer, by a 76 to 18 percent margin. In general, voters support the death penalty by a 65 to 23 percent margin for murder.

    It is also an issue with clear party divisions. Republicans favor the death penalty by a 80 to 12 percent margin and Democrats favor it by a 51 to 37 percent margin, according to the Quinnipiac poll. Of those polled, about 12 percent of voters are undecided.

    Also, when presented with a choice between the death penalty or life in prison without release, 46 percent polled supported the death penalty while 41 percent supported life in prison.

    During the last vote local legislators were split, largely along party lines.

    State Reps. Kim Fawcett (D-133) and William Tong (D-147) voted in favor of eradicating the death penalty.

    In 2009, state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) voted against abolishing the death penalty as did state Sen. John McKinney (R-28), state Reps. John Frey (R-111), John Hetherington (R-125), Anthony Hwang (R-134)

    Should the state abolish the death penalty it would only apply to future convicts, it wouldn't apply to Hayes or the other inmates on death row.

    During the campaign Malloy said he thinks it's wrong for the state to execute someone. He has also said the capital punishment doesn't deter crime.

    "It's an issue people have strong opinions on. People's minds are made up," said House Speaker Chris Donovan (D-84), adding that he didn't think the recent Cheshire case would factor into new legislation.

    And though the public opinion appears to favor the current law, Malloy's position may make it possible for him to gather enough votes to overturn the current statute, Frantz said.

    The only alternative to the death penalty for a capital felony is life imprisonment without release. Parole for all murder convictions is prohibited in the state.

    "The people convicted of the most heinous crimes should and would be incarcerated for the remainder of their natural life," McDonald said. "That's an important part of the discussion that gets lost."

    According to the Connecticut Department of Corrections, 59 individuals were serving life sentences without release as of March 2009. Of those, three are no longer in prison: one committed suicide and two had their convictions overturned because evidence was withheld at trial.

    Because of the recent Cheshire home invasion and murder trial legislators will strive to keep emotion from entering the drafting process, McDonald said, "Although that might not be easy to do."


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    Legislative Death Penalty Debate May Coincide With 2nd Cheshire Home Invasion Trial

    State lawmakers who oppose the death penalty will try again in the coming legislative session to get a bill passed that would abolish it, with debates likely to coincide with the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who potentially faces the death penalty in connection with the deadly 2007 Cheshire home invasion.

    State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, now vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he reintroduced the bill shortly after the November election.

    An earlier bill that would have abolished the state’s death penalty, which had the same language as the latest version, passed the General Assembly, but Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed it in 2009.

    If it were to pass, the latest bill would replace the death penalty as the state’s severest punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    “I don’t see the value of having a death penalty,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said. “The arguments for it don’t hold up. If you can incarcerate someone for life, you have met the burden of keeping people safe. One argument is that it deters people, but violent crime in Texas hasn’t decreased. I think the argument that it is justice is even more tenuous.”

    If the latest bill is successful, it would only affect crime suspects convicted after the time of passage, according to Mr. Holder-Winfield. Therefore, the 10 men currently on death row in Connecticut, including Mr. Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes of Winsted, would not be affected by any change and “would remain on death row,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said.

    Supporters of the bill are hopeful it will pass, especially since Gov.-elect Dan Malloy has taken an anti-death penalty stance.

    However, the election and changes in the membership of the legislature, along with publicity on the Komisarjevsky case, are also going to play roles, Mr. Holder-Winfield said.

    “If we can get it to the governor, then it has a better chance of passing,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said. “We are rejoicing to have Dan Malloy. But there is a new batch of people, new legislators. I don’t operate under the assumption that it will happen.”

    Mr. Hayes was convicted of capital felonies for his role in the 2007 Cheshire home invasion that ended in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Michaela Petit, 11, and Hayley Petit, 17.

    The state also is seeking the death penalty for Komisarjevsky, 30, of Cheshire. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin in late February.

    “I do think the timing of that trial will be a factor,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said. “Some (legislative) discussions will be around the time of jury selection. It will color whether we can actually get this bill moved.”

    Dr. William Petit Jr., formerly of Cheshire, the sole survivor of the home invasion, has urged lawmakers to keep the death penalty.

    “People want to be respectful of Dr. Petit,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said. “It may be difficult for people because of that — you don’t want to seem callous.”

    But the timing of the Komisarjevsky trial didn’t deter him from reintroducing the bill.

    “I think the death penalty is wrong, and the right time to do the right thing is always now,” Mr. Holder-Winfield said.

    The Judiciary Committee’s new chairmen, State Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, and State Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, both voted in favor of the bill in 2009.

    Connecticut’s last execution was May 13, 2005, when serial killer Michael Ross was put to death after he willingly halted his appeals. Before Ross, the state had not executed anyone since Joseph Taborsky in 1960.

    State Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, who voted against the 2009 anti-death penalty bill, said she’d vote against any new bill seeking to abolish the death penalty.

    “It is difficult to anticipate,” Ms. Klarides said. “It is not necessarily a party-line vote. The problem is the new governor said he would sign the bill. I do believe the (death penalty) should remain intact. There are some crimes that are so heinous, like the Petit murders. People who were on the fence, once they saw something like this happen, supported the death penalty. A majority of the people in the state support it.”

    Ms. Klarides, who is an attorney, said she does have a problem with the state’s current death penalty law, because of the length of the appeals process. She noted that Ross was only executed when he decided to end his appeals.

    State Rep. Linda Gentile, D-Ansonia, also voted against the 2009 bill that would have abolished the death penalty.

    Ms. Gentile said that with the change in the legislature and governor, there is a possibility a new bill could pass.

    “I will keep my vote the same — the majority of my constituents are in favor of the death penalty,” Ms. Gentile said. “Though I am personally against it, I’m not there to represent myself, but my constituents.”

    Results of a Quinnipiac University Poll released in October show 65 percent of those surveyed favored the death penalty. However, when offered a choice of the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole, 46 percent of voters chose the death penalty, while 41 percent preferred life in prison.


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    Death Penalty Debate Rages in Fairfield

    Sam Rizzitelli agrees that Kirk Bloodsworth should never have served time in prison, let alone on Death Row. But even after hearing Kirk, the first man freed from death row through DNA testing, tell his story in Fairfield's Assumption Church on Monday night, Sam's not convinced the death penalty should be abolished in Connecticut.

    Sam and others cited two cases. One was the case of Christopher Dimeo, who is on trial for murder in the deaths of Fairfield jewelry store owners Tim and Kim Donnelly in a 2005 robbery. Sam especially focused on Cheshire's William Petit, whose wife and daughters were killed in a home invasion in 2007.

    "I can't imagine what that man would go through the rest of his life knowing those two monsters are alive, getting three meals a day," Sam said. "There's just some lack of justice there."

    Kirk was sentenced to death in Maryland in the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in 1984. After eight years of contending his innocence, Kick read a book about a man who was convicted in a similar crime because of DNA evidence. Kirk then lobbied to have his case re-examined with DNA testing technology. In 1993, his conviction was overturned.

    Today, Kirk works with the Innocence Project and lobbies Congress to fund programs for similar testing programs. He also is an advocate for abolishing the death penalty.

    "If just one innocent man is put to death, it's not worth it," Kirk said.

    Douglas Bunnell, who lives in Wilton but is moving to Fairfield, disagreed with Sam and took Kirk's position that the death penalty should be wiped off the books. Though he feels for the families of the Petits and the Donnellys, he can't bring himself to support capital punishment.

    "That's the test for our codes and our principles," Douglas said. "You can't let emotions make those decisions."

    Sam, however, said Connecticut's system for the death penalty works best. He points to the fact that the state has executed only one man in the last 50 years: Michael Ross, who was convicted of eight murders and who wanted to be executed.

    "Twelve people out of 12 have to agree," Sam said. "We've got some pretty good safeguards in Connecticut."


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    Death penalty supporters plan next legislative steps

    State legislators who support capital punishment said Monday that they plan to introduce an amendment to speed up and streamline the death penalty process in Connecticut should a death penalty repeal bill make it through a legislative committee.

    We believe that abolishing capital punishment would jeopardize the safety of the people of Connecticut, said Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, who organized a news conference at the capitol with Rep. David Labriola, R-Naugatuck. For justice to exist, the punishment must fit the crime.

    Those speaking in favor of capital punishment included a half-dozen other legislators, members of state police and fire unions, and families of murder victims. Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a 2007 Cheshire home invasion, stood in support of the pro-death penalty coalition but did not speak.

    Labriola said the planned amendment, which has yet to be drafted, would set time limits for the filing of habeas corpus petitions and stays of execution to make the process easier on murder victims families. The time from conviction to execution would be seven to nine years.

    Bills that would repeal capital punishment are in the legislature's Judiciary Committee. The pro-death penalty amendment would be attached to whichever bill makes it out of committee.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign a death penalty repeal bill. The previous governor, M. Jodi Rell vetoed a repeal in 2009.

    There are currently 10 people on death row in Connecticut, including Steven Hayes, one of two Connecticut men accused of murdering the Petits. Jury selection began last month for the trial of the second man, Joshua Komisarjevsky.


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    Conn. death penalty repeal bill passes key vote

    The state lawmaker leading the effort to repeal Connecticut's death penalty says the bill has received enough votes to clear a key legislative committee.

    The Judiciary Committee acted on the proposal Tuesday, sending it to the House of Representatives.

    New Haven Democratic Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield says he's optimistic the legislation, which replaces capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole, will pass in the House.

    Opponents of the bill hope to strip the repeal provision in the House and instead pass language streamlining the death penalty appeals process.

    They also say the repeal legislation is flawed because it is prospective and would apply to future cases. Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican, predicts the state Supreme Court will throw out current death sentences.


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    Connecticut Likely to Abolish Ultimate Punishment

    With a vote of 27-17, the state's joint Judiciary Committee passed a bill repealing the death penalty. The bill should move to the state Senate in the next few weeks, according to state senators, and although they predict the vote will be a close one, they believe it is likely to pass.

    From there it would go to the House and then Governor Dan Malloy, who has said that he would sign the bill.

    Opponents of capital punishment hailed the vote as a step in the right direction towards abolishing a failed public policy. Ben Jones, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said his group was "very happy".

    The bill is not retroactive, so the 10 people currently on death row in Connecticut would not be reprieved if the bill were passed. Only one man has been executed in Connecticut since 1973.

    Recently, capital punishment has been the focal point of debate in the United States, particularly regarding the controversial case of Troy Davis, as well as a persistent shortage of lethal injection drugs that has led to several states' attempting to obtain these using questionable means.

    The death penalty was reinstated in 1977 in the United States after a 10-year moratorium. Since then, 16 states have abolished the death penalty, with Illinois being the most recent in March.

    A heavy price to pay

    Opponents of capital punishment draw on a wide range of reasons for why the policy needs to be abolished, but all agree that the system is deeply flawed.

    Connecticut State Senator Eric Coleman, the Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee, told IPS that he opposed the policy on both moral and practical grounds.

    "I fear that one day we may wrongfully prosecute someone for a capital crime, convict that person, and actually proceed in executing that person," he said. From a moral standpoint, "I just think that to kill a person in the name of the state or otherwise is the wrong thing to do," he added.

    He also cited financial justifications for repealing the death penalty - money spent on the lengthy appeals process, for instance, could be better spent on education or other social services.

    Others believe that many problems, legal, social and otherwise, are deeply embedded in both the death penalty and the appeals process. "The death penalty falls on the poor, minorities, those with inadequate representation at trial," Richer Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told IPS.

    Race and socioeconomic means also play a major role. According to Jones, "The race of the defendant has a big impact on who gets the death penalty. The stats show that if the victim is white, prosecutors are more likely to seek the death penalty."

    "Among people on death row, 95 percent of them cannot afford their own attorney. It's usually the poor who end up getting sentenced to death," he added. "It's a broken system."

    Coleman agreed that in Connecticut specifically, "There's a big disparity and inconsistency in the implementation of the death penalty."

    The appeals process has its own problems. Dieter told IPS that it "looks at mistakes that happen in the legal trial," not new evidence of innocence. During the process, said Dieter, courts "are only looking at the technical legal ways in which the trial was conducted, even though there may be very powerful new information." As a result, even if new evidence is uncovered, the appeals process may not necessarily use it to exonerate someone.

    From a purely financial standpoint, the death penalty is much more costly than life imprisonment. According to Dieter, when all costs are taken into account, enforcing a death sentence costs about three million dollars - three times as much as life in prison.

    Above all, however, "Mistakes can be made," said Dieter. "With the death penalty, you cannot undo those mistakes if you have an execution. Once you've carried out the execution, nothing can be done to change that."

    Public ambivalence

    A Gallup poll from October 2010 posed the question, "Are you in favour of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" Sixty-four percent of those surveyed were in favour, with 29 percent against and six percent with no opinion.

    But both Dieter and Jones argue that such polls do not accurately represent popular opinion.

    Instead, said Jones, "Ask the question in a slightly different way and say, 'In cases of murder do you favour the death penalty or life imprisonment without release?' When that question is posed support for the death penalty drops dramatically." He added, "As people learn more about the system, they're more willing to let go of it."

    Dieter confirmed this perspective, adding that when people are given a choice between supporting the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole, they favour the latter.

    One of the driving points of the debate over ending capital punishment in Connecticut is the chilling 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the gruesome murders of a mother and her two young daughters. One of the perpetrators, Steven Hayes, was convicted and placed on death row, and the other, Joshua Komisarjevsky, has not yet been tried.

    State Senator John Kissel, a ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, told IPS he supports the death penalty because he believes "it performs a valuable function in our criminal justice system" by inducing defendants to cooperate with authorities.

    "It does bring trials to a conclusion, in many respects, quickly," Kissel said. "Many cases are resolved because we do have a death penalty."

    In other situations, "Some cases are so horrific and heinous that it's an appropriate punishment," he said, citing the events in Cheshire as one example. "It's just considered by the vast majority in the public to be an appropriate penalty for these individuals."


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    At Petit's request, Prague to stop repeal of death penalty this year

    Sen. Edith Prague, an opponent of capital punishment, said today she is refusing to vote to repeal the death penalty this year at the request of Dr. William Petit, leaving the repeal effort one vote short in the Senate.

    Prague, a Democrat of Columbia, asked Senate leaders to delay the repeal vote until next session, after the trial of the last of two defendants in the Cheshire home invasion case that left Petit's wife and two daughters dead.

    "I actually believe in repealing the death penalty. For Dr. Petit, for me to do one more thing to cause him some kind of angst, I can't do it," she said.

    Prague said Petit, his wife's sister and a lawyer, Jeffrey Meyer, who is the son of Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, told her in a meeting last week that repeal could complicate the capital trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of two men charged in the Cheshire case. Another defendant, Steven Hayes, was convicted and sentenced to death.

    The repeal legislation was written as a prospective law, to affect only crimes committed after the effective date. But opponents have said it would be grounds for appeal to Komisarjevsky or others to fight a death sentence, and Petit made that case to Prague.

    Prague's voice broke as she recounted her visit from Petit.

    "I can still see Dr. Petit's face in front of me. Oh, my god in heaven. I'm doing it because that's what they came in for," Prague said. "They brought their lawyer and said, 'If you vote for the repeal, it would make it more difficult."

    Kimberly Harrison, a lobbyist for the repeal campaign, said she understands that Petit has been a powerful figure at the Capitol, though a similar bill passed in 2009, while the crime still was fresh in the minds of legislators. Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the measure.

    "He has every right to influence legislators," Harrison said.

    With Prague's vote, it appeared the repeal legislation would pass on an 18 to 18 vote, with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman breaking the tie and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy willing to sign the bill into law. The Senate Democratic majority is scheduled to hold a caucus on the death penalty today.

    But Prague, one of many senators visited by Petit in recent days, said she will not change her mind. If the bill is to pass this session, proponents will have to find another 18th vote.

    "I've been lobbied by everybody to change my mind. I just can't do it," she said.

    Next year, Prague said, she would vote for repeal, but not this year, not with Petit asking her to wait.

    "You know something, I just felt I just wanted to do a little something to help him," she said. "I can't vote for it this session. I can't do it. I can't do it."


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