evolving standards of decency," which is used in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence to analyze whether a given practice is cruel and unusual. While the Supreme Court has so far refused to find that capital punishment offends "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," there has been a strong trend away from capital punishment on the state level, as the death penalty is increasingly seen as too fallible and too costly to remain on the books.
Connecticut is on the verge of becoming the fifth state in five years to replace the death penalty (following Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York). Yesterday, a bill passed Connecticut's State Senate. It is expected to pass the House, and Governor Daniel P. Malloy has already agreed to sign it.
(The legislation would not affect the sentences of the 11 inmates now on Connecticut’s death row, although it should be noted that the state has executed only one inmate in the last fifty-one years; Michael Ross was executed in 2005, after he gave up his right to appeal.)
Who's next? As the New York Times reports, "repeal proposals are also pending in several other states, including
Kansas and Kentucky, while advocates in California have gathered enough
signatures to put an initiative to throw out the death penalty before
voters in November."
The SAFE California Act would replace California's
multi‑billion dollar death penalty with life imprisonment without parole
and require those convicted of murder to work and pay restitution to
victim families through the victim compensation fund. It would also set aside $100 million in budget saving for
local law enforcement for the investigation of unsolved rape and murder
Former San Quentin warden Jeanne Woodford points out that: “Connecticut’s estimated $5 million in annual death penalty costs pale in comparison to California’s $184 million per year. Spending on the death penalty for the entire state of Connecticut comes to about 3% of what we spend in California in one year.” As Woodford says, Californa's death penalty is a failed system "that is extremely costly, harms public safety and always carries the risk of executing an innocent person. We have over 700 death row prisoners in California. It is the largest and costliest system in the country ‑‑ and the world."