Supreme Court (Likely) Reaffirms Death Penalty UnconstitutionalPosted: May 26, 2016
According to the Judicial Branch website, the Connecticut Supreme Court will release its decision in State v. Peeler today (at 11:30 am) concerning the status of the death penalty in Connecticut. Last August, in State v. Santiago, the court held that the death penalty violated the state constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. But, as I’ve explained on this blog, today’s much-anticipated decision in State v. Peeler had the potential to overrule Santiago due to a change in the composition of the court (the retirement of Justice Flemming Norcott, Jr. and the addition of Justice Richard Robinson.
However, based on the number of concurring and dissenting opinions listed on the branch’s website, I think it is safe to say that the court will reaffirm Santiago. The website lists a majority opinion, three concurring opinions and two dissents. The dissents were almost certainly written by Justices Peter Zarella and Carmen Espinosa, who also dissented in Santiago. That there are only two dissents likely means two things: First, Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who dissented in Santiago–describing “every step of [the majority’s] analysis [as] fundamentally flawed”–has switched sides, so to speak, and is now voting to reaffirm Santiago based on the doctrine of stare decisis–Latin for “stand by things decided.” Second, Justice Richard Robinson, who was not on the panel that decided Santiago, has also voted to reaffirm that decision, likely for the same reasons as the Chief Justice.
We’ll learn at 11:30 if my prediction is correct. Stay tuned.