After the death sentence was announced in the Joshua Komisarjevsky case, opponents of capital punishment in Connecticut vowed to press on with their cause while death penalty supporters pledged to continue fighting repeal efforts.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a New Haven Democrat who serves on the legislature's judiciary committee and is leader of the repeal movement, said he hopes to once again submit a bill banning capital punishment and replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of release.
"If I can run the bill, I will run the bill,'' Holder-Winfield said. "It is my goal, my intention to make the attempt to abolish the death penalty every time I have the opportunity until it's abolished."
That could be challenging. Because 2012 has a short legislative session, only bills submitted by the committee will be considered. "It's my intention to make the attempt to get the judiciary committee to run the bill,'' Holder-Winfield said.
It is also an election year, and getting controversial legislation passed just before lawmakers go to the polls presents an additional challenge. Holder-Winfield said he is undeterred — "I think elections play into everything we do if we're being honest."
The murders of the Petit family in 2007 have long cast a giant shadow over legislative discussions on the death penalty. A repeal bill cleared the General Assembly in 2009 only to be vetoed by Gov.M. Jodi Rell.
During the 2011 session, the effort fell apart after two key state senators said they couldn't support a repeal in light of the Petit murders.
Dr. William PetitJr., the lone survivor of the home invasion, was a frequent presence at the Capitol each time the bill came up for a public hearing. "He puts a face ... to this case and that really resonates with folks," said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, the ranking member of the judiciary committee and a longtime opponent of repeal.
Knowing the emotional pull that the Cheshire case exerted on the debate, capital punishment opponents tried to broker a compromise that would only have repealed the death penalty prospectively, meaning for crimes that have yet to be committed.
But Kissel and others said such a distinction was unenforceable and would likely mean that no one would ever be executed in Connecticut again.
"To my mind that flies in the face of all the time and effort both the Hayes jury and this jury took in coming to the conclusion that these perpetrators deserve a death sentence because their crimes were so diabolical and horrific,'' Kissel said.
Gov.Dannel P. Malloy, who has said in the past that he would sign a repeal bill if one got to his desk, said just minutes after the verdict was handed down that that was not the time to discuss the matter.
"Gov. Malloy doesn't think today is a day for him to discuss his views on the death penalty,'' top aide Roy Occhiogrosso said via email. "His thoughts and prayers are with the Petit family."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun