Connecticut Death Penalty Ruling Stirs Painful Memories of 3 Grisly Killings
CHESHIRE, Conn. — Celine Bonilla was only 11 when she looked out her first-floor window and saw police officers pinning a man down on her front lawn. It was 2007, and that man and an accomplice had just killed two of her friends and their mother, dousing them with gasoline and burning them alive in their home in what became known as one of the grisliest crimes in Connecticut history.
Yet Ms. Bonilla, now an 18-year-old nursing student, said she opposed the death penalty — even for the two men who murdered her neighbors that morning. “They deserve to be in jail,” she said, explaining that she believed executions were cruel and unusual.
The Connecticut Supreme Court expressed a similar opinion on Thursday when it struck down the state’s death penalty law in its entirety, sparing the lives of 11 prisoners, including the two men, Steven J. Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who were convicted in the killings here.
While a state law enacted in 2012 had prohibited the imposition of any new death penalty sentences in Connecticut, the court went further with its 4-to-3 decision this week, saying that even those already on death row before the law’s passage could not be executed because the punishment “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency.”