Connecticut will be the 17th state to abolish the death penalty and the fifth to do so in the past five years. Nor is it likely to be the last: other states are reconsidering capital punishment. Repeal bills have been proposed in a number of states, including (unsuccessfully) Florida, which has 402 people on death row. In November Californian voters will vote on whether to repeal their death penalty. Kentucky’s House of Representatives recently passed a measure setting up a body to review and reform the death penalty. Pennsylvania and Oregon are also reviewing their death-penalty laws, and Georgia and Delaware this week each granted a stays of execution in a murder case. For six months Ohio had an unofficial moratorium because the state failed to follow its execution protocols. But a judge has now allowed the resumption of capital punishment. The first execution after the pause took place on April 18th.
The fear of executing innocent people is helping drive the trend for repeal. Between 2000 and 2011 an average of five people on death rows were exonerated each year. This is no small thing in a country where 3,199 people sit on death row and where only a few months ago Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, was cheered during an election debate when he bragged about executing criminals. But Texas is unlikely to change its policy in the near future. And in Connecticut, despite the change in the law, those on death row will remain there.