Post-mortem: Gibbons explains vote to repeal death penalty

In a departure from her previous stand on Connecticut’s death penalty, state Rep. Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, was one of eight Republicans to support the successful repeal of capital punishment after a marathon debate in the House Wednesday.

Gibbons, who is not seeking re-election this year after six terms in the General Assembly, dissected her vote in favor of the repeal in an interview with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers Thursday morning.

“I think it was probably the most philosophically challenging bill we’ve had in my 12 years in the Legislature,” Gibbons said. “I think the line in the sand was justice over punishment. The question that I ask is has retribution been exacted for society and the families? I think it’s somewhat barbaric to be putting people to death in this day and age.”

Gibbons characterized the current death penalty as imperfect, saying that years of appeals add to the emotional toll on victims’ families and expend limited taxpayer dollars.

“It’s got to be emotionally draining to the victims families,” Gibbons said. “It gives a public presence to these criminals every time they show up in court.”

Gibbons said the House Republican leadership didn’t try to pressure her to vote the other way, as she did in 2009 when then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the repeal.

“There was certainly no retribution on anybody’s part for how they voted on either side of the aisle,” Gibbons said.

Asked her impending retirement from the Legislature at the end of the year factored into her reversal, Gibbons said it didn’t.

“I don’t think I thought about that,” said Gibbons, who represents shoreline sections of Greenwich and part of the downtown.

Neil Vigdor