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The following is a letter written by Dr. William Petit in regards to the Connecticut State Legislature’s recent decision to abolish the death penalty. The opinions expressed in this letter are his own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Cheshire Herald.
"The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something."
I am deeply saddened that the legislators of the state of CT have walked away from justice. No surprise at all that it just happened to have been voted on at the end of a short week just before a long holiday weekend to minimize news coverage.
For certain murders and other crimes there is no other penalty that will serve justice other than the death penalty. It transcends national borders, races, and cultures. The issue here is justice, not revenge, nor many of the other arguments that the anti-death penalty abolitionists use as inappropriate arguments to take the focus away from the critical issue. I have found all of their arguments to be intellectually and philosophically dishonest and off point. Their main concerns appear to be the protection of criminals and saving money.
Justice and what is right and moral never appear to be part of their arguments, When a family member is murdered it destroys a portion of our society — all the potential of those taken away in a cruel fashion is obliterated. Those murdered can never grow and contribute to society. Those who knew them can never hold them, spend time with them, and see what they would add to their family life and society in general. A poor argument made by many of the abolitionists is that life in prison without the possibility of parole is a "worse" punishment than death-if they (the abolitionists) are so magnanimous and forgiving why are they opting for a punishment that is worse, i.e., life without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty? In addition, the problem with the legislature is just that....the legislature. Next year, if there is no death penalty, we will see a move afoot to lessen the sentences of those sentenced to life without parole to "save money.” This is not a theoretical issue as it is now being discussed in other states, as they now do not want to pay the health care costs of their aging life without parole populations.
In addition, it removes the option of the death penalty from the prosecutors as a plea bargaining tool. The legislators want us to take years to talk about the killers and allow them to utilize our resources when these animals have broken the most sacrosanct law of our society. Once you have broken this rule you have forfeited your rights to live among us — life is that precious. There is only one way to lose that privilege and it is to take another person's life unlawfully — murder.
The death penalty is lawful execution, though those in the Judiciary Committee do their best to make it nearly impossible to implement and then tell us "it doesn't work-we should abolish it.” It doesn't work because they have stood in the way for the past 20 years. State Representative Mike Lawlor (D-99) has now publicly stated that, given this vote, no one will ever be executed again, as if he has some extraordinary power to both legislate and judge all those who have gone to trial and will come to trial. He has driven this agenda despite the fact that the Quinnipiac polls show 70 percent and the Hartford Courant poll shows that 67 percent favor the death penalty. The death penalty abolitionists in the legislature are excellent at pretending that they care, but they have a predetermined agenda and outcome. The “public hearing” saw them keep the public defenders' office up for several hours so they could pontificate on many issues that are off the point and allow less time for those in favor of the death penalty to speak. The main issue for those we elect should be what is just and what is right, but the Judiciary Committee and the Public Defender's Office appear to have little interest in victims. To them we (victims of violent crimes) are much like the homeless people in large cities. The Judiciary and Public Defender's Office walks by us, afraid to look us in the eyes, and then make public pronouncements about how bad it is that there are homeless (victims).
In the New Testament in James, this is referred to as “faith without works.” In this case they pretend to have faith but do nothing to help victims. In fact they are going out of their way to decrease the budget for the Office of the Victim Advocate by 20 percent while increasing the budget for new programs to serve criminals.
Do you see a trend here?
Do you see a trend that tells the tale of who the Judiciary and the majority up in the legislature support? They clearly do not support the will of the constituents who overwhelmingly favor the death penalty in capital felony cases. They appear to feel that they have been elected to support criminals and defense attorneys. There are many folks on death row who should have been executed years ago. The Judiciary Committee and the Legislature in general have doubly shirked their duty as they have had years to revamp the appeals system but continue to allow defendants to appeal for years, even when it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are guilty. This is a denial of justice and a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. Mr. Lawlor asked Kevin Kane to come back to the Judiciary Committee with a proposal to shorten the appeals process. Mr. Kane did so *but there was inadequate time near the end of the long session to truly discuss what is a complex issue. There was one short hearing, arguments about amendments, and then the item was voted down. A revision of a process this complex needs adequate time to be done fairly, but there was clearly no interest from the majority in making a good faith effort to improve/streamline the appeals process. *In addition, the proposed bill on habeas appeals *never* got out of the Judiciary Committee. *Excessive habeas appeals* allows *convicted*prisoners to appeal nearly ad infinitum without any logical reason nor shred of hope of succeeding other than delaying their execution. Judge Susan Handy at the Melanie Rieger Conference last week in Cheshire stated that she currently has an inmate before her court on his/her 33rd habeas appeal. For reasons that defy justice and common sense, the state legislators and defense attorneys think that this is an academic game played with the money of the people of the state. They can continue to appeal for those who are guilty almost ad infinitum. Who suffers? Who loses? You guessed it, the victims — always the ignored group. Where is the justice? Where is their sense of right and wrong? Clearly they have none. These violent criminals have been tried by a jury of their peers and found guilty. This occurred again in the sentencing phase and likely in most death penalty cases in several appeals. None of the people on death row in Connecticut are claiming innocence — there are no controversial cases there. When I speak of the death penalty, I am speaking of capital felony cases where no doubt is left and where there is conclusive evidence. Opponents will throw out a "DNA argument.” If you actually take the time to review the literature, you will find that it is not available in many cases and will not exonerate people in the vast majority of cases. The defense wants it both ways: They claim to require 2.5 to 3 years to "prepare" for a death penalty case and then the most common cause for appeal is "inadequate defense". What does this say about their abilities when they prepare for 2 to 3 years, waste hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, and then lose the case? To me, it attests to the obvious; that the accused was guilty and preparation for 10 years would not have changed the outcome. Yet, somehow these defense attorneys can rationalize the waste of taxpayers’ time and money with these antics.
To get personal in my case the district attorney has been ready to go to court since March 2008 and the defense (Ullman and Donovan-both paid for by taxpayers) are wasting as much time as possible because they have no concern for the victims or for the thousands of dollars that they will waste. There only goal is “to win” whether their clients are guilty or innocent and the longer the trial the more hours they can charge to the taxpayers.
There are heinous murderers who have forfeited their rights to continue to live among us. I suspect many murder victims and their families would like the legislature to provide a magical mechanism for them to delay the cruel and heinous murders of our own loved ones-but these legislators seem far more interested in the murderers than the law-abiding citizens of the state.
They have failed us in many ways. They really should have been spending their time on fixing the budget crisis but have chosen to shirk their duties and, instead of focusing on cutting costs, are mainly raising taxes, fees, and repealing certain deductions. Because the Democrats have a super majority, they feel they can enforce their will upon the people of Connecticut. All the polls I have seen show that a majority of citizens of the state favor the death penalty in capital felony cases and yet these legislators feel they are wiser than we the people. They also feel that they are wiser than all the societies that have existed for tens of thousands of years before us that used the death penalty as the ultimate punishment.
It always was and always will be a deterrent — the executed person can never kill again. Many of these same legislators wanted to cuddle Michael Ross after he had been convicted of torturing, raping and killing at least eight young women and admitted to other murders for which he was never tried. In an incredibly disgusting display of self-pity Mrs. MA Handley told us all how her birthday was forever ruined as Ross was executed on that day. She did not admit to worrying or grieving over the anniversaries of the deaths of the young women tortured and murdered. Again she had no statement concerning the victims or their families. Unbelievable.
This is from an honest liberal who actually took the time to look at the deterrence data:
"The common good argument is that executing murderers would deter murder and save lives. But the death penalty opponents challenged the veracity of that assertion. Finally, the results of several recent university studies are available. A series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years analyze the hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes, counting between 3 and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.
One of the studies by Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. “The results are robust, they don't really go away,” he said. “I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them? The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect.”
Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 showing that capital punishment has deterrent effects. To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, looking at the impact of the death penalty on homicides while accounting for other factors such as unemployment data, per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.
Among the conclusions:
1. Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University.
2. The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.
3. Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
The reports have horrified death penalty opponents.
Steven Shavell, a professor at Harvard Law School and editor of the American Law and Economics Review, said that his journal intends to publish several articles on the statistical studies on deterrence in an upcoming issue.
The University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein, a well-known liberal law professor and critic of the death penalty, has begun to question his own strongly held views. “If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple,” he told The Associated Press. “Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty.”
Moral philosophy says to look to the common good, in this case saving the lives of innocents. To ignore this would be immoral, and the sign of a scrambled mind." (http://palosverdesblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/moral-philosophy-and-death-p...)
In summary, all I can say is that it is a very sad day to be a citizen of the state of Connecticut, as we are represented by people who do not have the courage to stand up for what is right and what is justice. They, in fact, do not take the time to ask their constituents what they want and believe, nor do they actually study the facts. I am sorry for these people's misguided philosophies that will lead to a weakening of the very fabric of our society and will deny justice to victims. Do not listen when these people say they did this for victims. They did not do this for victims, they did it for themselves and their inability to make a difficult decision and stand up for what is right and just.
William A. Petit Jr. MD
Husband of Jennifer and father of Hayley and Michaela Petit-all 3 murdered by paroled prisoners caught on site and now 670 days later still not at trial. Justice is not a word with which the State of Connecticut is familiar