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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddox Show" - Transcript


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MADDOW: All right. Last night, Connecticut became the 17th state in our nation to vote to repeal the death penalty. How did that happen? Connecticut`s governor, Dannel Malloy, joins us for the interview, next.


MADDOW: I am in San Francisco tonight, which is awesome. I`m from here. I love being here.

I was in Los Angeles yesterday. I`m presumably going somewhere else next. I don`t know at this point. I can only focus on what`s happening in 10-minute increments.

It`s kind of a whirlwind West Coast tour that we are doing this week, in part to promote my new book, "Drift." But I can tell you that on tomorrow`s program, we`ve got the great and good Bill Maher. Me and Bill Maher and stuff that needs to be bleeped on a very short delay.

That`s tomorrow night show. But we`ll be right back.


MADDOW: In 33 states in the country, if you are the governor, one of your responsibilities as governor, at least theoretically, is to kill people who are in prison, to oversee the process of taking people for whom the state has been responsible for housing and feeding and their medical care and their eyeglasses and their clothes and their mail and their reading material and their toilet paper and everything, taking those people out of the prison cells in which they have been housed by the state and quietly, deliberately, killing them, usually in front of an invited audience.

In 33 states, that is part of the governor`s job description, to oversee that process. But something interesting has been happening -- somewhat below the political radar about the politics of this issue. Yes, these 33 states have the death penalty. But Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York, these states used to have it as well. And they have
decided just in the past five years to get rid of the death penalty, to get rid of the state process of killing people in prison. They have all abolished the death penalty in the past few years.

As well -- five months ago the governor of Oregon didn`t go so far as to repeal the death penalty in the state but he said that as governor, he would no longer enforce it. Reflecting on the two executions he had overseen in a previous term as Oregon governor, John Kitzhaber said, quote, "They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again. I do not believe that those executions made us safer and certainly did not
make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong."

And so, he will not oversee executions in Oregon. And so, in a world where the country cannot join the European Union if it has the death penalty, in a world where the United States stands almost alone among major Western democracies and still claiming the right to legally kill prisoners, in a world where still a Republican debate audience lustily cheered for a Texas governor`s record of overseeing 200 executions, still in this world,
American states are quietly and steadily ending the death penalty.

Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York have gotten rid of it.

Oregon has stopped it.

California will put the likely put the issue of repealing the death penalty before California voters in November in a referendum. The Capital Punishment Project at the ACLU also tells us that there are strong left-right coalitions in favor of repealing the death penalty in Montana, in Kentucky, and in Kansas. But tonight, one more state is poised to take itself off the map of American states where the government does


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House of Representatives is voting by roll call. Members to the chamber of the House taking a roll call vote. Members to the members to the chamber please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clerk, please announce the tally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senate bill 280 as amended by Senate A and Senate I, in concurrence with the Senate, total number voting 148, necessary to pass is 75 -- yea 86, nay 62, absent not voting three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill as amended is passed.


MADDOW: Last night at 10:57 p.m., after almost 10 hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives decided to abolish the death penalty, the bill goes to the governor of the state for his decision.

Joining us now for the interview is Governor Dan Malloy of the great state of Connecticut.

Governor Malloy, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. It`s nice to have you here.

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Are you going to sign the repeal of the death penalty of your state?

MALLOY: Yes, I`ve talked about it for years. During the campaign in which I was elected a governor, I made it clear that I would sign a repeal, a statute if it got before me, it almost cost me the election, quite frankly. But it was what I believe.

I`m a governor who`s actually tried and prosecuted four murder cases and actually defended one. And during that period of time, I switched from being pro-death penalty to being against it. I don`t believe as a society we should be engaged in that activity.

Almost no other industrialized nation in the world is doing it. It`s China, it`s Iran, it`s Yemen, it`s us, and a few others.

MADDOW: When you mentioned that this almost cost you the governorship, because you were clear about your intentions on this when you ran --


MALLOY: My opponent actually ran ads against me on this subject. But listen, if you believe something, you believe it.

And, by the way, this is not about me. This is about some wonderful leadership in the Senate. This is wonderful leadership in the House that got together and passed this bill again. It`s the second time that it`s passed. It was vetoed by my predecessor and I`m proud to be in a position to sign this.

Now, I also have to say that I understand the victims` families are divided on this issue. Some of them in our own state wanted this repeal to be passed and some of them were very ardent in arguing that it was the only way to bring closure. I understand both sides` arguments.

But as a society, this is not something that we should be doing. And it`s applied in our nation even this day, this year in an arbitrary and capricious fashion. If you examine the statistics and understand that people of color who kill white people are much more likely to receive the death penalty than other groups, you start to understand how capricious this is in some case in its application.

MADDOW: In terms of that issue of how it is applied, do you think that is what is changing people`s minds on this the most? I mean, Connecticut has a history of executions going back to the 1700s, and this has been an issue that has been hotly debated year after year after year.

What do you think it is that changed enough people`s minds on this issue over time that this repeal has finally come to pass?

MALLOY: Well, let us remember, the first person put to death in Connecticut was put to death because that person was accused of being a witch. And we`ve made other mistakes in Connecticut, I believe.

But most importantly, we are violating the Supreme Court`s decision that originally outlawed the death penalty because we are doing it in an arbitrary and capricious fashion. If you were prosecuted in one particular city in our state, you were seven times more likely to receive the death penalty than if you had committed a crime and been tried in another city in our state.

So, we weren`t meeting a constitutional standard, nor do we have a workable death penalty statute in our own state. Since 1961, the only person to be put to death actually volunteered for it by withdrawing their appeals. Every other person currently on death penalty -- on death row is not likely to have been put to death anyway. But we had this practice in place where they could be.

We have several people on death row been on longer than 20 years. I think what we are doing is joining the rest of the industrialized world, joining the other 16 states. By the way, when you talk about the states, understand that Wisconsin outlawed the death penalty in 1853 and Maine did it in 1876. This is not a new movement. It was a slow one to develop. It`s picking up steam.

I believe there is a day coming when our nation will join the rest of the industrialized world in doing away with it.

MADDOW: In terms of the men in Connecticut who are on death row. I know that part of it getting passed was an agreement that it would not apply retroactively. Those men, those 11 men in death row in Connecticut will still be technically be facing execution, this just means that there`ll be no new death sentences handed in the state.

If any of those cases did come to an end in terms of appeals, while you were still governor, can you imagine yourself carrying out the executions for the men who were not grandfathered in in this legal change?

MALLOY: No, I couldn`t imagine myself doing that. But actually, I`m a governor in the state that doesn`t vest that power in the governor. So, I would never have to make that decision as governor.

But I understand other governors who have been bothered by the decisions they have been made, that they`ve made and how difficult it must be. That`s simply not the law here.

But I have to tell you, I`m proud to be the governor who will sign this legislation, proud to serve with the men and women of the Senate and the House that passed the legislation, and proud that we are joining 16 other states that have joined the rest of the industrialized world in moving beyond this penalty.

Now, listen, we also made another compromise, or actually good improvement I think on the bill and we`ve said for particularly heinous crimes, people will be treated differently as if they are on death row, with very limited rights and privileges. We understand that there should be differences -- different forms of punishment for individuals but death is not one of those.

MADDOW: Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut -- thank you for being with us on the show tonight, sir. Thank you.

MALLOY: Thank you.


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