Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed a bill into law on Wednesday that repeals the death penalty, making Connecticut the 17th state to do so. The new law does not apply to the 11 inmates currently on death row in the state.
Connecticut has been paying about $5 million a year to maintain its death penalty system, according to the state's Office of Fiscal Analysis, despite the fact it is rarely used. The only person the state has executed since 1960 is serial killer Michael Ross, who raped and murdered eight young women in the 1980s.
The repeal of the death penalty is expected to save the state $850,000 per year in the next two fiscal years, and the OFA estimates that that number will grow to $5 million in subsequent years.
"With Governor Malloy's action, Connecticut joins sixteen other states that have already concluded that the death penalty is too risky, too expensive, and too arbitrary to continue," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an advocacy group that opposes capital punishment. "By replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole, Connecticut officials have reduced the risk of executing the innocent and freed up taxpayer dollars for other programs that prevent crime more effectively and better serve victims' families."
A majority of voters in Connecticut oppose the death penalty ban. Sixty-two percent of respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll said they support the death penalty in general, compared to 30 percent who oppose it and 54 percent of voters who said it was a bad idea to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole in Connecticut.
"We have tried to be consistent in not saying much about polls because ... what's there to say?" said Roy Occhiogrosso, senior adviser to the governor, in a statement on Wednesday. "Polls come and go, numbers go up and down. The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do."
A number of cash-strapped states have been reevaluating their death penalty systems lately as a way to save taxpayers millions of dollars annually. Illinois got rid of capital punishment in 2011, and California has an initiative on the November 2012 ballot to replace its death penalty system, which is estimated to cost about $184 million a year, with a sentence of life without parole.