Eleven death row inmates can be scheduled for execution
In a 44-page decision, Connecticut Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza wrote that five death row inmates had failed to prove any racial, ethical or geographical bias in the state's application of the death penalty, either in specific cases or collectively, reported the Hartford Courant.
Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane said on Saturday that while his office expects the men to appeal the ruling, he believes the court's finding is very important.
During the trial, which ran for more than 10 days from September to December last year in a makeshift courtroom inside Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, the petitioners' case depended greatly on a study by Stanford Law School professor John J. Donohue III of the state's death penalty prosecutions.
Sferrazza wrote that not only is the generic statistical information provided by Donohue insufficient to prove racial disparity under the state's requirements, but that Donohue's conclusions were "questionable and lacked probative value."
The judge listed several issues with Donohue's data, including the fact that Donohue found a total of 205 cases prosecuted in the state between 1973 and 2007 that met the criteria for possible imposition of the death penalty. Of those cases, only 28 reached a penalty phase where the death penalty was considered, and of those 28, 12 murderers were sentenced to death — three of which were not considered in Donohue's final report because they were reversed on appeal.
Sferrazza wrote that the limited number of death penalty cases in Connecticut makes an over-arching judgment on a racial bias impossible.
The five petitioners in the lawsuit — Sedrick Cobb, Daniel Webb, Todd Rizzo, Richard Reynolds and Robert Breton — wanted their sentences converted from death to life in prison without parole.
They are among the 11 death-row inmates still facing execution even though the state legislature abolished the death penalty in 2012. The abolition does not apply to people already on death row whose crimes predated the legislation.
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Michael Gargiulo, Pretrial Hearing 45
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