Conn. prosecutors defend death penalty

Sept. 5, 2012 at 3:07 PM
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SOMERS, Conn., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- One of Connecticut's top prosecutors Wednesday defended his decisions on when to seek the death penalty.

Seven death row inmates in the Nutmeg State have sued, arguing prosecutors have demonstrated racial, ethnic and geographic bias in applying the statute. Last April, lawmakers outlawed the death penalty for all future cases but the historic law's passage specifically said previous death penalty sentences should go forward, the Hartford Courant reported.

Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane and other top prosecutors in the state will travel, along with a judge and court staff, to Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn., home to the state's lethal injection chamber in coming days to hear the case. The trial, taking place in the prison due to security concerns about having seven of the state's death row inmates in a public courtroom, will focus on prosecutors' decisions about which murder cases warranted death penalty charges and which did not.

Under oath Wednesday, Kane said he carefully examined the state's "very precise" legal statutes, along with evidence gathered by police and the opinion of the victim's family, to determine whether the death penalty should be sought in first-degree murder cases. Kane also said there exists no written rules for what qualifies as a capital offense in Connecticut.

Death row inmates have argued as far back as 1994 that racial bias has been a factor in seeking the death penalty in the state, the Courant reported.

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