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Connecticut High Court Revisits Death Penalty For 11 Inmates

(Connecticut Department of Correction via AP)

Months after ruling to abolish capital punishment completely in Connecticut, the state's Supreme Court gave state attorneys another chance Thursday to argue that convicts who were on death row at the time of a 2012 state repeal law should still face execution.

The 11 inmates on death row have remained in legal limbo since the August ruling as prosecutors waited to argue the appeal.

Assistant State's Attorney Harry Weller argued the 4-3 ruling was flawed and ignored the intentions of lawmakers who called for the state law repealing capital punishment to apply only to future crimes, and not current death row inmates, the Connecticut Post reported.

Arguments were held in a case involving one of the 11 death row inmates, Russell Peeler Jr. Peeler was condemned to die for ordering the 1999 killings of Karen Clarke and her 8-year-old son, who had been expected to testify against Peeler in a shooting case.

Defense attorneys argued that that any question about legality of the death penalty already was decided by the August ruling, which declared the punishment itself unconstitutional.

The 2012 statute replaced what had been known as a "capital felony" with a new crime, "murder with special circumstances." Under the new law, anyone convicted of what would have previously been a death-penalty eligible crime is now sentenced to life in prison under conditions mimicking death row.

It also says that any inmate whose death sentence is commuted "must be placed in administrative segregation" until they are reclassified by the department. After that, they can remain in segregation, be placed in protective custody, or be placed in a housing unit for the maximum-security population under specified confinement conditions.

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