The legislation would eliminate capital punishment for all future cases, but would not directly affect sentences of the 11 inmates currently on Connecticut's death row. Many officials insisted on that as a condition of their support for repeal in a state where two men were recently sentenced to death in a brutal, highly publicized 2007 home invasion.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 20-16, now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is considered to have a high level of support. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat has said he would sign it into law.
Lawmakers were poised to take up death penalty repeal legislation last year, but decided not to hold a vote in the Senate after some senators voiced concern about taking action when the second of two suspects in a 2007 deadly home invasion in Cheshire had yet to be convicted. Now that both men have been sentenced to death, the General Assembly is again considering a prospective appeal that theoretically won't apply to them.
But opponents of the bill predicted the repeal will be the basis for numerous legal appeals by lawyers for death row inmates.
Dr. William Petit Jr., the sole survivor of the home invasion that left his wife and two daughters dead, appeared at the Capitol on Wednesday with his sister and father, hoping to talk to some of the senators who agreed to oppose efforts last year to repeal the death penalty.
Connecticut has carried out only one execution in 51 years, when serial killer Michael Ross was administered lethal injection in 2005.
In the last five years, four states have repealed the death penalty - New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York.
Executions nationwide have decreased steadily since they hit an all-time high of 98 executions in 1999 and have averaged at 44 a year since 2007, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered