HARTFORD — Religious leaders urged state lawmakers yesterday to abolish Connecticut’s death penalty, but its sponsor said rising support for the death penalty is hurting his efforts.
More than 300 Christian and Jewish leaders gave legislators a letter yesterday supporting a bill to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release for certain murders. They said human life is sacred and money spent to impose the death penalty would be better spent preventing crime.
“We join many in Connecticut who question capital punishment due to its record as an ineffective, unfair, and fallible response to violence,’’ the religious leaders wrote. “As people of faith, we reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty and belief in the sacredness of human life.’’
Representative Gary Holder-Winfield, the bill’s sponsor, said he expects it to win its first vote in the Judiciary Committee in the next week.
Holder-Winfield, a New Haven Democrat, acknowledges that polls show rising support for the death penalty in Connecticut after a mother and her two daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire. One of two men accused in the case has been sentenced to death. The other awaits trial.
A statewide poll released March 10 showed that 67 percent of registered voters favor the death penalty, up from 59 percent in 2005. The Quinnipiac University Poll telephone survey of 1,693 voters, conducted March 1-7 had a margin of sampling error of 2.4 percentage points.
“Of course, it affects what we’re doing,’’ Holder-Winfield said. “The reality is we’re going to do what we feel is the right thing.’’
Governor Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign into law legislation abolishing the death penalty, but Holder-Winfield said the governor is not lobbying lawmakers to pass it.
“The governor has expressed he’s not going to work the bill,’’ he said. “It’s not up to him. It’s up to the Legislature.’’
A retired minister attended the news conference but stood silently in opposition to the antideath penalty statements. Stuart C. Brush, a retired United Church of Christ minister in Woodbury, held a framed photo of his son, Dean Brush, who he said was killed in 1983 at the age of 21. The killer was sentenced to six years and nine months in a plea bargain, he said.
“The death penalty has a place within our judicial system,’’ he said.