Stephen Hayes, recently found guilty of the Cheshire home invasion murders, is awaiting sentencing for his capital conviction. Responders to the poll want him to suffer the death penalty by an overwhelming margin, 76% to 18% with 6% undecided.
The general question of whether convicted murderers should be given the death penalty or life in prison without any chance of parole resulted in a more even split, 46% for death, 41% for life w/o parole, and 14% undecided. And this was polled during the emotional aftermath of a dramatic trial. I think people generally are fine with the idea of life in prison, as long as there's absolutely no chance of them ever being released.
There is one question I wish they'd asked:
Do you feel that the death penalty is a valid deterrent?Because obviously, it didn't deter Hayes from perpetrating his crime.
Several months ago Hayes apparently attempted suicide by hording prescription pills and taking them all at once. How is it morally acceptable to demand the state keep someone from taking their own life, only to have the state take that life at a later date if it sees fit?
I understand the emotional need for vengeance, especially for such an horrific crime. But if Hayes thought being in jail was a worse punishment than death, why wouldn't people want life in prison for him?
Another question the poll asked was "If a candidate for governor were to take a stand on the death penalty that was different from your own, would you vote against that candidate on the basis of that issue alone or would you consider other things before deciding who to vote for?" Only 6% responded they'd vote against, meaning the issue isn't a deal breaker for either candidate. People seem to be much more concerned with jobs and taxes than the death penalty.
I'm currently in production of a documentary about the death penalty debate, so this issue is very pertinent to me. Certainly next year we'll revisit this issue at the State Capitol, regardless of who sits in the governor's office.