Reporting Fran Schneidau
HARTFORD, CT (AP / WCBS 880) - Support for Connecticut’s death penalty has reached its highest point in more than a decade, and even some who generally oppose capital punishment say it’s appropriate for a man convicted in the 2007 deadly Cheshire home invasion, according to a new poll.
Quinnipiac University’s poll, released Wednesday, found 65 percent of those surveyed support the death penalty. That’s up from 61 percent two years ago, and the highest number since the year 2000.
It comes as Steven Hayes faces sentencing this month after being convicted of murder, rape and other charges for his part in the 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela.
Prosecutors are asking jurors to send him to death row.
Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack that killed his family and burned down his home, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty. He wants it imposed against Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, who awaits trial.
The Quinnipiac poll results show many Connecticut voters share Petit’s view about Hayes, whose attorney plans to ask jurors to impose life in prison without parole.
The pollsters did not ask specifically about voters’ views on Komisarjevsky’s fate if he is convicted, though they found 98 percent of those surveyed had read about the case.
Three of every four people surveyed favored the death penalty for Hayes, with 18 percent against it and 6 percent undecided. Men were slightly more likely to support it than women.
There are 10 inmates on death row in Connecticut, though one awaits a new trial based on legal questions over whether a baby was born dead or alive after he killed its mother.
The last person executed in Connecticut was serial killer Michael Ross in 2005.
The General Assembly approved a ban in 2009 on imposing the death penalty for future convictions - which would have included Hayes - but not retroactively for death row inmates, whose cases are in various stages of appeals.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the ban, saying the state cannot tolerate people who commit particularly heinous murders.
Connecticut hanged inmates until 1937, when it started using the electric chair. It switched to lethal injection in 1995.
The last inmate executed before Ross in 2005 was Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky in 1960. Taborsky was electrocuted for a string of robberies and killings that left six people dead over four weeks in late 1956 and early 1957.
Quinnipiac’s new poll was taken over five days starting Oct. 7, two days after Hayes was convicted in New Haven Superior Court. The survey included 1,721 registered Connecticut voters and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points in either direction.
Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates have sparred over their stances on the death penalty, but the Quinnipiac poll found it did not matter much to voters.
Only 6 percent of those surveyed said they would base their vote for governor solely on the person’s position on the death penalty. Republican Tom Foley supports capital punishment; Democrat Dan Malloy opposes it.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)