Local senators split on death penalty vote

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State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17)

NAUGATUCK — With the repeal of capitol punishment having passed the state Senate, Connecticut is poised to become the 17 state to abolish the death penalty.

The bill passed through the senate by a vote of 20-16. The vote was primarily split down party lines, with all of the Republican senators voting against the bill. Democratic senators Paul Doyle (D-9) and Joan Hartley (D-15) were the only members of their party to vote against the bill.

This bill would not be retroactive; meaning the 11 inmates who are currently on death row would remain there.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17), who voted in favor of repealing the death penalty, explained that coming to the decision on which way to vote was a long process.

Crisco said he looked into the ramifications of the bill over the past year, during which time he spoke with ministers, rabbis, priests and citizens.

He said he received numerous communications asking him to repeal the death penalty.

He explained that even some victims’ families came to him to ask him to repeal the death penalty.

The families told him that they had to keep returning to court as the prisoner on death row sought appeal after appeal. They found the whole process tormenting, Crisco said.

Crisco even went as far as to visit Northern Correctional Institute, the prison where the inmates on death row live.

After thoroughly looking into the issue, Crisco came to what he believed was the right decision.

“The correct thing at this time was to vote for repeal,” Crisco said.

Hartley, who voted against the bill, did not feel that this was the correct time for repeal.

Hartley’s vote stems in part from the 2007 murder of a Cheshire family.

State Sen. Joan Hartley (D-15)

Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes beat William Petit and murdered his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and the couple’s daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11, during the home invasion.

Both Komisarjevsky and Hayes received the death penalty for the murders.

According to Hartley, her family and the Petit family had been close because her daughter and the older Petit daughter were friends.

“We had sleepovers together. We had birthdays, celebrations, graduations, softball trips, basketball tournaments, college acceptances. I remember when Hayley got accepted to college, the college her father had gone to,” she said.

While explaining her reasoning for wanting to vote against the bill, Hartley began to tear up.

She explained to the Senate that she was voting against the bill because she feared that, if the bill was passed, Komisarjevsky and Hayes would be able to commute their sentences to life in prison rather than the death penalty.

The Senate, in the death penalty repeal bill, proposed life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as an alternative to capital punishment.

Crisco received letters from citizens, asking him to vote against the repeal of the death penalty, which he took into consideration. However, the letters he received asking him to repeal it came in far greater numbers than those asking to keep it.

He explained that, even though the state has only carried out the death penalty once in 50 years, that this was an important issue for the Senate to undertake because it was an important issue to the people of Connecticut.

Crisco felt that this bill showed what the state stood for.

“We’re not a society ruled by emotion and vengeance. We are a society ruled by justice,” he said.

The bill was scheduled to come before the House of Representatives Wednesday.

The Republican American contributed to this article.