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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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PHILLIPS: Abolishing the death penalty. Right now that debate is playing out in Connecticut. Already these are the states that have abolished it. And if passed, Connecticut would be the 17th state to get rid of it.

Now, keep this in mind. This is also the state traumatized by the gruesome murders of the Petit family. And because of those brutal killings, these killers are two of the 11 convicts on death row right now in Connecticut. And the details of what they did are chilling. Dr. William Petit, beaten and tied up. His wife, raped and strangled. His youngest daughter molested, both tied to their beds. All left to die as their house burned down around them. Dr. Petit, the sole survivor.

There's a lot of people that think those two murderers should die for what they did. And therein lies the complicated debate over the death penalty. Connecticut's Senate voted to repeal the death penalty just yesterday. The House is expected to pass it. And Governor Dannel Malloy joins me now, and he vows he'll sign the measure into law. Governor, thank you so much for being with me. Let's go ahead and start with why repeal the death penalty?

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, you know, there are any number of reasons, not the least of which is research that demonstrates that many people have been put to death improperly in the United States. And that there are a distinct racial biases in the use of and actual executions. So there are many reasons.

Listen, the Catholic Church is against it. The Episcopal Church is against it. A majority of the major religions represented in the nation are against it as a matter of their public policy and on moral grounds.

I'm a former prosecutor. I tried four homicides as a prosecutor and once as -- once as a defense attorney. I began my life as a lawyer, believing that the death penalty was appropriate. But when you study this issue and you understand how many people have had ineffective counsel and the racial bias and how many people have been wrongly put to death, then you actually have to come to the conclusion that this tool, although it may make some people feel better, really doesn't lower crime, is not in any measurable way a tool to lower the number of homicides, and then you understand that the United States is really in a very small group of -- actually, almost no other industrialized nation carries out executions any longer.

So we join Iraq and Iran and other nations that still have it. You know, this is an interesting piece of history.

PHILLIPS: Yes, well, Governor, let me -- let me ask you something.

MALLOY: But Wisconsin -- let me just say this. Wisconsin did away with this in 1853. Maine did away with it in 1876. This is a not a new concept.

PHILLIPS: OK. Let me -- let me just bring it back to your constituents. I see you've made all your points about those who are against it including yourself. But if you look at the recent Quinnipiac poll, 60 percent of Connecticut residents think that abolishing the death penalty is a bad -- excuse me, 62 percent, forgive me, Governor, 62 percent of Connecticut residents think that abolishing the death penalty is a bad idea.

It looks like most residents don't agree with you, your constituents.

MALLOY: Well, listen, I ran for governor, and everybody knew what my position was. And what we said is that if a repeal came that was prospective in nature, I would sign it. Listen, I almost lost the election taking positions like that. But I didn't lose the election. Now it's a matter for the legislature to decide. The Senate and the House. The Senate has already decided that they want to repeal this.

In fact, both the House and the Senate vote in 2009 to repeal it, and my predecessor didn't, actually vetoed that legislation. But, I mean, this is a much bigger issue than simple politics. So let me take on that poll for a second. What they didn't ask in that poll is give people an option for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or release. So when you give the option to the citizens of Connecticut, the support for the death penalty falls below 50 percent.

PHILLIPS: OK. All right. Two questions. I'm going to try and get us -- get them both in there, Governor. Back to the Petit family, because we brought that up obviously at the beginning of this interview. You know, what do you think, then, should happen to killers like that? Specifically those two?

MALLOY: Under -- well, listen. Let's be very specific. Under this statute as passed by the Senate, people would be sentenced to life imprisonment with the same conditions as if they were on death row. Meaning that they actually are in a cell for 22 out of every 24 hours. That's what we would do. That's what the other 16 states do. This is not a question of whether you punish someone.

In fact, let's be very specific. The only person put to death in Connecticut since 1960 is someone who volunteered for it who was so miserable in the conditions that he was being held in that he dropped all of his appeals. We have not put a person to death in Connecticut since 1960. We have several people who are on death row for more than 20 years. And there's -- and there's no date set.

We don't have a workable death penalty statute, nor are we going to have one. And it looks like we're going to repeal the statute that we have.

PHILLIPS: So let me ask you, so the proposed repeal, it would not apply to these two killers in the Petit case or the others already sentenced to death. So couldn't getting rid of the death penalty actually open up the door during their appeals process, getting their sentences reduced to a life sentence, and doesn't that cost lots and lots of money?

MALLOY: Well, I'm not sure you heard what I said. We have people on death row who've been on longer than 20 years. The reality is, we don't have a workable death penalty in the state of Connecticut. No one's going to be put to death under that statute as it currently exists. In the foreseeable future. You're more likely to die of old age in Connecticut on death row than anything else.

PHILLIPS: Got it. How much does it cost to put someone to death?

MALLOY: Well, we're calculating that by doing away with the death penalty, we'll actually save about $850,000 over the lifetime of that individual during their incarceration because it's cheaper to incarcerate that person than it is to pay for appeal after appeal after appeal after appeal. We're talking about 20 years of appeals.

PHILLIPS: OK. How much does it cost to put someone to death?

MALLOY: The specific act of putting someone to death?

PHILLIPS: Yes.

MALLOY: Is relatively inexpensive. I mean, that's relatively inexpensive. But that's not -- that's really not the measurement. As I said to you, we have people who've been on death row for over 20 years. And they are still pursuing appeals. It doesn't end in Connecticut. And that's why I think some people support doing this.

But I think -- I think it really is unethical on moral grounds whether the government should, as a matter of practice, be putting people to death. And I think Connecticut probably will join 16 states that have made a decision that that's not appropriate. One of those states recently was Illinois which did an exhaustive study of how death row cases had been handled and actually concluded that more people were underrepresented, ineffectively represented, and potentially put to death by mistake than any one -- any other group.

PHILLIPS: Final thought, Governor. What would you say to the Petit family?

MALLOY: I've said it time and time and time again. I've extended our condolences. We certainly understand how horrific this particular crime was. And I hope that they get the closure that they ultimately need. But I think the legislature will move forward and join 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world as ruling that the death penalty should not be carried out in Connecticut any longer. And by the way, it hasn't been except on a voluntary basis since 1960.

PHILLIPS: Governor Dannel Malloy, appreciate your time this morning.

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