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Witness: "Strikingly Large" Disparities In Death Penalty Cases

Publication Date: 
September 12, 2012
Hartford Courant
Alaine Griffin

Professor John Donohue is mentioned in this Hartford Courant article by Alaine Griffin regarding his recent testimony in a Connecticut case challenging the fairness of the state's death penalty.

A key witness for five death row inmates challenging the fairness of their death sentences testified Wednesday that there are "strikingly large" disparities along racial and geographic lines when it comes to the death penalty in Connecticut.

Stanford Law Prof. John J. Donohue III testified that minority defendants whose victims were white were three times more likely to receive a death sentence than white defendants whose victims were white.


Where defendants are prosecuted is significant, too, Donohue testified, saying that one judicial district stood out - Waterbury. Those eligible for death there were sentenced at much higher rates than defendants tried elsewhere in state, he testified.

Donohue said former Waterbury State's Attorney John A. Connelly was "outspoken" about the death penalty and he was "criticized for his overzealousness." So, Donohue said, "looking at Waterbury was a natural thing to do."


Donohue said he looked closely at the "egregiousness" or atrociousness of each crime, identifying the number of victims, who the victims were, how much a victim suffered and the culpability of the defendant. He said he concluded that the administration of the death penalty in Connecticut does not correspond to the egregiousness of the crime.

"Do the worst of the worst get the death penalty in Connecticut?" David S. Golub, attorney for Sedrick Cobb, asked Donohue.

"No, they do not," Donohue replied.

"Do the worst of the worst get charged with the death penalty in Connecticut?" Golub asked.

"No, they do not," Donohue said.


Donohue will resume his testimony Thursday.