Connecticut Moves To Abolish Death Penalty

Dan Malloy

Connecticut is poised to abolish the death penalty following General Assembly passage of an abolition bill and a major studying showing that executions have been imposed unfairly. Gov. Dan Malloy, left, said he will sign the bill, which was approved 86 to 62 in the state's lower house after passage by the Senate.John Edwards

Meanwhile in North Carolina, jury selection began April 12 in the federal corruption trial of two-time Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards. The former North Carolina U.S. senator, at right in a file photo, is accused of illegally making payments to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, mother of his daughter. Edwards defenders say that such a scandal is not a crime, tawdry though it is. Defense arguments are expected to emphasize that gift taxes were paid on the money and it should not be considered a campaign donation because the money was not handled in traditional campaign accounts.

The New York Times reported this background on Connecticut's abolition effort, whose approval was predominately supported by Democrats. "Democrats in favor of the bill," the Times said, "cited support from many families of murder victims and the fact that capital punishment has long been banned by nearly all of the world’s democracies. In a review of 34 years of Connecticut death penalty cases, Prof. John Donohue of Stanford Law School concluded that 'arbitrariness and discrimination are defining features of the state’s capital punishment regime.'”

Further, the Times reported:

The fight over the bill could persist long after the vote. Republicans are likely to put the issue in play in the fall when all 36 State Senate and 151 State House seats are up for election. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 62 percent of Connecticut residents thought abolishing the death penalty was “a bad idea,” though polls over time have found respondents split relatively evenly if given the option of life without parole as an alternative to executions.

Regarding the Edwards case, prosecutors have charged Edwards with misusing nearly $1 million from two wealthy donors to hide his affair with Hunter, who once worked for the 2008 campaign. Hunter and Andrew Young, a campaign aide who claimed paternity, used the money for living expenses in a high-end lifestyle, to care for the child and try to hide from the media. The Justice Department argues that money for the cover-up was a donation because it was intended to influence the 2008 election.

However, the New York Times reported a contrary view as follows:

There has never been a prosecution remotely like this,” said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has filed a motion in support of Edwards in the case. If the government prevails, she said, many kinds of personal spending could be called into question. Even gym memberships and haircuts paid for by the candidate could be considered campaign spending, she said. “Everyone wants to punish him because he's a crappy human being,” Sloan said. “But in America we prosecute conduct, not character.”

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Related News Coverage

New York Times, Death Penalty Repeal Goes to Connecticut Governor, Peter Applebome, April 11, 2012. After more than nine hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal the state’s death penalty, following a similar vote in the State Senate last week. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill, which would make Connecticut the 17th state — the 5th in five years — to abolish capital punishment for future cases. His Malloy’s signature will leave New Hampshire and Pennsylvania as the only states in the Northeast that still have the death penalty. New Jersey repealed it in 2007. New York’s statute was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s highest court in 2004, and lawmakers have not moved to fix the law.

New York Times, Defining Campaign Spending Is at Heart of Edwards Trial, Kim Severson, April 11, 2012. Jury selection was scheduled to start Thursday in the federal trial of John Edwards, the start of at least six weeks of courtroom sparring between the corruption unit of the Department of Justice and a high-powered criminal defense team representing a man who twice reached for the presidency. Mr. Edwards’s fall from grace for a hidden affair has long been tabloid fodder. A former Democratic senator from North Carolina, he is being tried on six felony charges, four involving whether he accepted illegal campaign contributions. He also faces charges of conspiracy and making false statements. A conviction would send Mr. Edwards to prison for up to 30 years and could bring up to $1.5 million in fines. The government contends that Mr. Edwards knowingly used nearly $1 million from two wealthy donors to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter and the daughter the couple conceived. Ms. Hunter once made videos for Mr. Edwards’s campaign.