Death penalty: Keep it or not?

Recently, I sat down after work to catch a quick moment of the nightly news. The first thing I hear is that two particularly evil murderers from Connecticut have been given back their lives. With the signature of four justices, they have been spared the death penalty. Just like that.

I was completely incensed by this ruling. I was unnerved by the slippery slope I felt this ruling could establish.

What about the surviving victims of these evil beings? Don’t they have a say? Don’t those lives lost and ruined matter? What about them…?

Governor Dannel Malloy (CT File Photo)
Governor Dannel Malloy
(CT File Photo)

In 2012, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law that abolished the death penalty, making the state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal. But inmates already on death row when the law passed were considered exempt from the law and could be executed. (

So in August, 2015, the Supreme Court of Connecticut, or dare I say it, four of the seven justices of the Supreme Court, have now deemed that the abolishment of the death penalty back in 2012, will now extend to those currently on death row. Eleven inmates are breathing a little easier today. Survivors are not.

In essence, four people, and they are just people, in the State of Connecticut had the power to re-interpret the law, by ruling on a case on appeal “State of Connecticut v. Eduardo Santiago,” deciding the death penalty fell under “cruel and unusual punishment,” if carried out after the 2012 law had taken effect.

This will forever change the course of Connecticut as a state from this point forward. It also delivers a certain blow to the citizenry who were affected by these criminals.

Justices are to interpret and enforce the laws already established. How they make or change current law is by their decisions on current cases on appeal. This is what happened here. Now from this point forward, all cases following, and all future justices will site the Santiago case and enforce this decision with every new ruling; it’s like stacking building blocks. All cases and future justices will be held to this recently established standard, and so a new law is established.

It is mind boggling to realize the power of four people, not elected, but appointed. Not to take anything away from their education on the road to judgedom, but that’s a lot of power. They are human; don’t all humans make mistakes?

State Supreme Court – “this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose,” Palmer wrote. Hartford Courant, August 13, 2015

What? “Standards of decency…”  Who are they to decide what standards of decency are shown to violent criminals, back-dated at that? Going forward, the law is the law, but going backwards? Too much power perhaps; they, those justices. Maybe put it to a vote for the citizenry to decide, or are we no longer smart enough to offer valid input…

It is a broken system, with endless appeals, and rarely an execution; so rarely justice?

Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, thirty-four states have performed executions. In 2014, 35 inmates were executed in the United States, and 3,002 were on death row. States such as Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, and Arizona execute convicted murderers with relative frequency. (Wikipedia)

I love the law. I believe in the law. We are a nation of laws. I admire Lady Justice. I stand by her. Justice is blind. Fairness and equality is a necessary staple of our American diet. So where is the justice for those victims, dead or alive?

Eleanor Roosevelt once stated ‘Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.’  (

Whether an execution ever happens or not is beside the point. It is the weird comfort of a death sentence, the finality of it.

I can only assume that the victims slept better knowing these criminals were on death row.

Eduardo Santiago was sentenced to death in 2005 for the murder of Joseph Niwinski in 2000. (CT DoC file photo)
Eduardo Santiago was sentenced to death in 2005 for the murder of Joseph Niwinski in 2000.
(CT DoC file photo)

So now, as regular inmates; what if they get paroled or pardoned? What if they escape?

These are not likely scenarios, but not completely out of the realm of possibility, and that’s the issue. They are no longer on death row. I’m sure every citizen who is within flying distance of this evil sleeps a little better knowing evil is on death row.

Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, certainly you can agree that if the death penalty was the law at the time of trial, and it was handed down from the judge as an appropriate sentence for that crime, that those sentences should be carried out. Agreed?

A magic wand has been waved, and the punishment has disappeared. This decision opens that horrific world for the victims once again. Can they wave that same magic wand and erase the horror that was put upon them?

I wonder, what “standard of decency,” was shown to the victims with this decision?

I believe in the justice system, but not the manipulation of it.

As for the death penalty, yea or nay …  it’s the finality of the sentence, not necessarily the action itself. Sometimes the fear of the punishment is in and of itself punishment enough.