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State High Court Upholds Death Penalty Ban, Including For Bridgeport Killer

Russell Peeler Jr., who ordered the killing of Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr., 8, above, and his mother Karen Clarke, in their Bridgeport home, no longer faces the threat of execution in the crime.
Russell Peeler Jr., who ordered the killing of Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr., 8, above, and his mother Karen Clarke, in their Bridgeport home, no longer faces the threat of execution in the crime. Photo Credit: Murderpedia

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday upheld its decision to abolish the state's death penalty, including for inmates on death row, declaring the practice unconstitutional, according to NBC Connecticut.

The court's 5-2 decision came as part of the appeal of Russell Peeler Jr., who had been on death row for ordering the 1999 murders in Bridgeport of Karen Clarke and her 8-year-old son, B.J. Brown, who was to testify against Peeler in another murder case, NBC Connecticut said.

The Thursday decision upholds the court's 4-3 decision last August that the death penalty was unconstitutional for all – including 11 convicts on Connecticut's death row.

"The judgment is reversed with respect to the imposition of two sentences of death and the case is remanded with direction to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release on each capital felony count; the judgment is affirmed in all other respects," the opinion from the court says.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and lawmakers had abolished the death penalty in 2012 future murders — leaving 11 men on Death Row, including Peeler and the Cheshire home invasion murderers, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes. Those 11 convicts now face life in prison without the possibility of release.

“Several years ago, Connecticut joined more than a dozen other states and the majority of the industrialized world in replacing capital punishment with the punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole," Malloy said in a statement. "Today’s decision reaffirms what the court has already said: those currently serving on death row will serve the rest of their life in prison with no possibility of ever obtaining freedom.

In the last 50 years, only two inmates have been executed in Connecticut, both of whom volunteered.

"Capital punishment is an emotional issue, and my opposition to it arose after many years as a prosecutor, then as an attorney, and finally as a public servant," he said. "Opinions on this issue vary, and it’s critical that we respect that diversity of perspectives. These are deeply personal and moral issues that we as a society are facing and the court has once again ruled on today.

“Our focus today should not be on those currently sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving family members. My thoughts and prayers are with them on this difficult day.”

Click here to read the story at the NBC Connecticut website.

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