When serial killer Michael Ross was put to death in May of 2005, Connecticut became the first New England state to carry out a death sentence in more than forty years.

At the time, the spectacle of a tiny, deep blue state dispatching a convicted murderer via lethal injection gave rise to the usual hand-wringing and no small amount of curiosity. I mean, let’s face it, Connecticut ain’t exactly Alabama.

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(Credit: Bob Englehart - Hartford Courant)

The Christian Science Monitor took up the baton and ran with it:

New England’s resistance to the death penalty stems in part from having the country’s lowest murder rate, says Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Experts also cite its liberalism overall and the impact of its renowned universities.

Yet some in Connecticut worry that with this execution, that distinction would no longer hold as firmly. “It can no longer call itself an enlightened state,” says Paula Montonye, a lawyer who represents some of the state’s death row inmates. The execution “is a stamp of approval on killing. It creates an atmosphere of death. And life begets life; death begets death.”

Enlightened or not, it looks like two prime candidates for Connecticut’s next rendezvous with the gallows have emerged in the upscale town of Cheshire. Here’s CNN:

Prosecutors in Connecticut say they will seek the death penalty for two men charged with killing three members of a prominent Cheshire, Connecticut, doctor’s family during a gruesome home invasion.

New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington announced additional charges against Steven Hayes, 44, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, on Thursday.

The charged include murder — called capitol felony in Connecticut — which carries a sentence of either life without parole or execution by injection.

The suspects were initially charged with aggravated sexual assault, burglary and arson.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky are accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit Jr., was assaulted and thrown into the basement of the home during the attack.

After “invading the home”, at 3:00 AM Monday morning, Hayes and Komisarjevsky beat the father and threw him in the basement, raped the women, robbed them, and then burned the house to the ground – murdering everyone but the father.

I’m against the death penalty. I arrived at my opposition intellectually – and over a long period of time – not as a result of inherent revulsion, religious conviction, liberal politics or anything of that sort.

But when I read a story like the one above, I realize that my conversion is nowhere near complete and that I’m in serious danger of backsliding. When two career criminals (with more than twenty convictions on their rap sheets) commit the Devil’s Trifecta of murder, rape, and armed robbery I could not — would not — look a good ol’boy from Missouri in the face and make a cogent argument about why their lives should be spared.

I hope that someone with a longer — and more committed — history of opposition to the death penalty will enlighten me.

In the meantime there’s a part of me (a very big part of me, indeed) that hopes that Dr. Petit buys a gun and takes care of business himself.

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