This past Wednesday, I had the honor of being a guest at the signing of the repeal of the death penalty bill recently passed to the governor from the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives. When Governor Malloy signed the bill, I was overjoyed. The tone of occasion was solemn and respectful, as it should have been. This was a momentous, life-changing event for the people of our state.
I suddenly felt so proud to be a citizen of Connecticut. I’m proud that we have made it clear that in Connecticut we value human life. I’m proud to join the sixteen other states who have similar laws, and I’m proud to join most of the countries of the world.
I feel such a sense of accomplishment to have had a part in making it understood that all victims, and all victim family members, do not necessarily want the death penalty to be imposed and carried out. Some of us believe that the death penalty will not bring us closure or peace. I think that hearing our collective message and our individual experiences made a difference in the outcome of this bill.
For years it seems there has been a general belief that all victim family members have wanted the death penalty for the person who took, often brutally, their loved one. This may be true for some families, but it is not true for the victim families that I know, some of whom were among the more than 180 individual Connecticut victim family members who signed a letter to our legislators telling them that we support repeal of the death penalty. We told them it had been our experience that the death penalty does not help us, and that it in fact hurts us and gets in the way of whatever healing we might ultimately achieve. We told our individual stories and spoke to the Judiciary Committee specifically about how the public policy of the death penalty had failed each of us. I believe many of them heard us.
As I stood in the Governor’s office, with the Senators and Representatives, the members of the clergy, the organizers, and the other victim family members, I was proud to stand with all of them, and to count myself among them. I was honored to be a representative for all the other victim family members who have worked so long and so hard, and at such great personal cost to repeal the death penalty. They were in my heart.
On April 25, 2012, when Governor Malloy signed the bill into law, my heart was full of gratitude, respect, fellowship, happiness, and, for just a moment, a beautiful peace.