Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

William Petit, Dad of Murdered Family, Reacts to Connecticut Death Penalty Ruling

Steven Hayes (Left) and Joshua Komisarjevsky  AP PHOTO/CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE
Steven Hayes (Left) and Joshua Komisarjevsky
It was a crime of epic cruelty, and the culprits were sentenced to pay the ultimate price.

But a decision by Connecticut's highest court means the 2 men who carried out the chilling Petit family murders will be spared execution, along with 9 other death-row inmates.

Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky now get life sentences for a 2007 home invasion robbery in which they raped and strangled Jennifer Petit, tied her daughters Hayley and Michaela to their beds, and set the home ablaze.

Petit's sister, Cynthia Hawke Renn, told NBC News that she is "disheartened" by the Connecticut Supreme Court's finding that a 2012 legislative repeal of the death penalty should also apply to those who committed their crimes earlier.

"I really do think that cruel and unusual crimes really do deserve cruel and unusual punishment," she said.

"For people who commit such heinous and horrific crimes - when you torture and rape them and their children, douse them with gasoline and burn them alive - is there not something that should be worse?

"Shouldn't there be a worse punishment out there for someone who takes a life in such a cruel and unusual way?"

Jennifer Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, who was beaten during the siege but escaped to call for help, had fought against the 2012 repeal of the death penalty. He noted in a statement Thursday that the court was divided in its ruling.

"The dissenting justices clearly state how the 4 members of the majority have disregarded keystones of our government structure such as the separation of powers and the role of judicial precedent to reach the decision they hand down yesterday.

"The death penalty and its application is a highly charged topic with profound emotional impact, particularly on their victims and their loved ones."

Connecticut's death row includes killers who have been there since 1989. The latest addition is Richard Roszkowski, who was sentenced last year, after legislative repeal, but was still eligible because the crime occurred in 2006.

He was convicted of killing a former neighbor, Holly Flannery, her 9-year-old daughter Kylie and a landscaper, Thomas Gaudet.

Kylie's grandmother, Flo Tipke, said the court ruling was a blow.

"We went through two trials and now it kind of feels like it was a huge waste of time and money," she said. "We're very sad. We feel that the way he murdered our grandchild and our daughter-in-law was cruel and heinous and I don't feel any punishment they could have given him would be too cruel or heinous."

Mary Jo Gellenbeck - whose sister Diana was kidnapped and killed by another death-row prisoner, Daniel Webb - said she favors Thursday's ruling.

"I don't support the death penalty so I'm happy to see that Connecticut is moving in the direction of eliminating that," she said.

Gellenbeck said her opposition to capital punishment stems in part from the danger that someone innocent could be put to death, though she is certain Webb murdered her sister.

"I think David Webb is a danger to society," she said. "But if he is behind bars without parole, it's what everybody wants."

Source: NBC news, August 14, 2015

Statement on Connecticut Supreme Court Death Penalty Decision

Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down exemptions to the state's 2012 death penalty ban, which had excluded the 11 inmates currently on death row. In response, James Clark, Amnesty International USA's senior campaigner on the death penalty, released the following statement:

"Today's ruling that any use of the death penalty in Connecticut is unconstitutional brings the state closer in line with the majority of the country, which is abandoning the death penalty in law and in practice.

"It's encouraging that the court determined that the death penalty fails to meet 'contemporary standards of decency' and serves no 'legitimate penological purpose.' Connecticut can now stand fully among the 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have abolished the death penalty."

Executions and death sentences in the US have plunged in the last decade to historic lows, due largely to the public's increased awareness about glaring flaws inherent to capital punishment. In 2014 only 7 states carried out executions, with 80% of executions taking place in just 3 states.

Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Source: Amnesty International USA, August 13, 2015

From Out of the Macabre Muck

Yesterday, by a vote of 4-3, the Connecticut Supreme Court said enough. In State v. Santiago, litigation over whether the prospective elimination of the death penalty in Connecticut made its retroactive application unconstitutional, the court said that it did. Near the start of the 92-page lead opinion, Justice Palmer quoted Santiago's counsel setting forth the base claim.

[T]he death penalty is no longer consistent with standards of decency in Connecticut and does not serve any valid penological objective.

And then, Palmer gave the answer

Public Act 12-5 not only reflects this state’s longstanding aversion to carrying out executions, but also represents the seminal change in the four century long history of capital punishment in Connecticut. Accompanying this dramatic departure are a host of other important developments that have transpired over the past several years. Historians have given us new chronicles of the history and devolution of the death penalty in Connecticut. Legal scholars have provided new understandings of the original meaning of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Social scientists repeatedly have confirmed that the risk of capital punishment falls disproportionately on people of color and other disadvantaged groups. Meanwhile, nationally, the number of executions and the number of states that allow the death penalty continue to decline, and convicted capital felons in this state remain on death row for decades with every likelihood that they will not be executed for many years to come, if ever. Finally, it has become apparent that the dual federal constitutional requirements applicable to all capital sentencing schemes—namely, that the jury be provided with objective standards to guide its sentence, on the one hand, and that it be accorded unfettered discretion to impose a sentence of less than death, on the other—are fundamentally in conflict and inevitably open the door to impermissible racial and ethnic biases. For all these reasons, and in light of the apparent intent of the legislature in prospectively repealing the death penalty and this state’s failure to implement and operate a fair and functional system of capital punishment, we conclude that the state constitution no longer permits the execution of individuals sentenced to death for crimes committed prior to the enactment of P.A. 12-5.
Which is it. The Connecticut Constitution won't allow it.

Source: Gamso - For the Defense, August 14, 2015

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's statement on Connecticut death penalty ruling

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement in response to the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision Thursday to overturn the death penalty:

"In 2012, Connecticut joined 16 other states and the majority of the industrialized world in replacing capital punishment with the punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since then, 2 additional states have abolished capital punishment. When Connecticut's law was passed, it did not apply to the 11 inmates currently serving on death row. We will continue to look to the judicial system for additional guidance on this rule. But it's clear that those currently serving on death row will serve the rest of their life in a Department of Corrections facility with no possibility of ever obtaining freedom.
"In the last 54 years, Connecticut has only executed 2 inmates, both of whom volunteered for the execution. Many on death row are able to take advantage of endless appeals that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and give those convicted killers an undeserved platform for public attention.
"Capital punishment is a difficult issue that is deeply personal for many Connecticut residents. I arrived at my opposition to capital punishment after careful thought and through many years of experience in the criminal justice system, first as a prosecutor and then as an attorney and public servant.
"Everyone arrives at their position on this difficult issue on their own terms, and everyone should have respect for differing opinions on what is a difficult and moral issue for both sides.
"Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members. My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."

Source: New Haven Register, August 13, 2015

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