HARTFORD, Conn. — After executing just one prisoner in more than 50 years, Connecticut moved Thursday to become the fifth state in five years to do away with the death penalty for good.
But the repeal wouldn't be a lifeline for the state's 11 death row inmates, including two men who killed a woman and two children in a horrifying home invasion in 2007 that death penalty supporters touted as a key reason to keep the law on the books. The state Senate debated for hours Thursday about whether the law would reverse those sentences before voting 20-16 to repeal the law.
After the state Senate's vote, the heavily Democratic state House of Representatives is expected to follow with approval within weeks. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first Democratic governor elected in two decades, has vowed to sign the same bill vetoed by his Republican predecessor.
The state is one of the last in the Northeast to have a death penalty law and would join New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York as the most recent to outlaw capital punishment. Repeal proposals are also pending in several other states, including Kansas and Kentucky, while an initiative to end the death penalty goes before California voters in November.
Death sentences and executions are also plummeting around the country as fewer prosecutors push capital punishment cases, often because of new laws that allow life with no possibility of parole as a sentencing option.
Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Connecticut would become the 17th state without a death penalty. Executions in the U.S. have declined from a high of 98 in 1999 to 43 last year, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. The number of people sentenced to death each year has also dropped sharply, from 300 a decade ago to 78 last year, he said.