In 2012, when Connecticut became the
17th state in the U.S. to abolish the death penalty, like many other states before and since, the legislature faced the question of what would become of the remaining eleven condemned inmates on death row. Following Connecticut’s lead, in May of 2013, the state of Maryland voted to eliminate capital punishment, and soon enough faced those same questions from an anxious public, albeit with far fewer inmates’ fates to consider. What would be done with the state’s (supposed) most dangerous offenders? Would they (could they?) still be executed? In response, outgoing Maryland Governor and current presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley, a committed and outspoken opponent of capital punishment, commuted the sentences of the state’s remaining death row inmates to life without the possibility of parole, cementing his legacy in December of 2014.
Now, with news abuzz that the Supreme Court may be poised to accept a challenge to the constitutionality of capital punishment, Connecticut has sent a strong message this past week in declaring the death penalty incompatible with their state’s constitution. Connecticut has in efffect declared capital punishment cruel and unusual, owing in no small part to the fact that state killing is considered by the court to be “incompatible with Contemporary standards of Decency.” And as state after state follows suit in abolishing this arbitrary, barbaric practice, one can only hope the highest court in the land can recognize the simple truth recognized by the highest court in Connecticut: We are better than this.