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Lawyers appeal death penalty ruling


HARTFORD (AP) — Lawyers for some of Connecticut’s death row inmates have appealed a decision by a judge who ruled there are no systemic racial or geographic biases in the way state prosecutors seek the death penalty.

The attorneys appealed last month’s ruling by Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza to the state Appellate Court last week. It’s not clear when the court will hear the case, or whether the state Supreme Court will exercise its option to hear the appeal without Appellate Court review.

Five of the 10 men on Connecticut’s death row are plaintiffs in the habeas corpus lawsuit filed in 2005, saying their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection have been violated. They allege the way state prosecutors decide when to seek the death penalty is discriminatory and arbitrary, with a defendant’s race and the location playing roles.

Sferrazza’s issued a 44-page ruling Oct. 11 saying there was no proof of systemic biases.

The state repealed the death penalty last year, but only for future murders. Death row inmates also are challenging the repeal, but Sferrazza ruled they couldn’t raise the issue in the appeal.

Condemned inmates Sedrick Cobb, Daniel Webb, Richard Reynolds, Robert Breton and Todd Rizzo are the plaintiffs in the appeal. Webb’s lawyer, Michael Sheehan, said he expects the case to go before the state Supreme Court at some point.

“We think that the judge made a mistake, and we think it will be reversed,” Sheehan said Monday.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said after Sferrazza’s ruling was issued that there are no biases in the way the state’s death penalty law has been administered.



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