It Ain’t Over Till It’s OverPosted: October 8, 2015
No, I’m not referring to Yogi Berra’s recent passing. No, I’m not referring to Lenny Kravitz’s 1991 song. Yes, I am referring to the status of the death penalty in Connecticut.
As I noted in the preceding post, although the Connecticut Supreme Court today denied the State’s motion for reargument in State v. Santiago, which held that the death penalty violated the state constitution, it granted the State’s motion for permission to submit supplemental briefs in another pending death penalty case, State v. Peeler. The granting of that motion is potentially very significant. As I previously explained, due to the retirement of Justice Flemming Norcott, Jr., the panel of justices that will decide Peeler is different from the panel that decided Santiago. Justice Richard Robinson, who took Justice Norcott’s seat, is now the swing vote in Peeler. He could vote with the three justices who dissented from Santiago and effectively overrule that decision, thereby breathing life back into the death penalty for the eight men currently on death row in Connecticut. Or he could vote with the three justices who were in the majority in Santiago and reaffirm that decision.
I have no idea how Justice Robinson will vote on the merits of the Peeler case. But as it takes four votes (out of seven) to grant a motion for supplemental briefing, he must have joined with Chief Justice Rogers and Justices Zarella and Espinosa in voting to give the State the opportunity to submit supplemental briefs in Peeler. Thus, it appears that the State will now have the opportunity in Peeler to make the arguments it was not allowed to make in Santiago. Only time will tell whether those arguments persuade Justice Robinson to side with Rogers, Zarella and Espinosa and overrule Santiago.
In short, the story of the death penalty in Connecticut is not over. Stay tuned.