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Poll: 3 in 5 Conn. residents support death penalty

Stephanie Reitz

HARTFORD, Conn. — Three of every five Connecticut residents want the state to keep its death penalty despite legislative attempts to abolish it, according to a poll released last Thursday.

The Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of those surveyed supported capital punishment and did not want it replaced with life in prison without parole for convicted murderers.

The Democrat-led General Assembly this month approved legislation abolishing the death penalty for future convictions that otherwise could have qualified the inmate for execution, but Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has vowed to veto the measure.

She has said capital punishment is appropriate for certain heinous crimes, a sentiment shared by many in the new poll who want the death penalty retained.

“You might find some people who say, ‘Well, I might generally support life in prison, but I still want to have it [the death penalty] for the worst murders,’” Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said.

The percentage of Connecticut residents who support the death penalty has changed little over the past several years.

The last poll, in November 2007, found that 63 percent supported the death penalty for convicted murderers. In 2001, 60 percent supported it.

Schwartz said the new poll shows public opinion is on Rell’s side as she prepares to veto the bill that sharply split Connecticut’s General Assembly this month.

Overall, support for the death penalty ran 61 percent to 34 percent in the newly released poll. Republicans supported it 77 percent to 20 percent, compared to 64 percent to 31 percent for independent voters and 50 percent to 43 percent for Democrats.

Among those who favored capital punishment, 23 percent said in response to an open-ended question that the death penalty provides retribution and/or fair punishment. Another 22 percent said it is appropriate for severe or heinous crimes.

Among its opponents, 23 percent said no one has the right to take a human life, and 15 percent said they fear the possibility that an innocent person could be executed.

People on both sides said they believe the option they favored — life in prison or execution — costs the state less than the option they opposed.

Ten convicted murderers currently sit on Connecticut’s death row.

Connecticut’s last execution occurred May 13, 2005, when serial killer Michael Ross was put to death by lethal injection after he willingly halted his appeals. It was New England’s first execution since 1960.

Death penalty opponents continued to press Rell this week to change her mind on her promised veto of the legislature’s bill abolishing the death penalty. They say capital punishment provides no solace to victims and forces the state to spend unnecessary money to fight inmates’ appeals.

A Rell spokesman said last Thursday they have not yet heard specifics on when the measure will reach her desk, but that she remains committed to vetoing it.

Quinnipiac’s poll, taken between May 20 and 25, surveyed 1,575 registered Connecticut voters and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

(Associated Press)