State Supreme Court holds death penalty hearing in Russell Peeler case

A jury sentenced Russell Peeler to death for ordering his brother to kill a woman and her 8-year-old son in 1999. (7/10/14)

HARTFORD - The state Supreme Court held a special session today to hear the appeal of a death row inmate from Bridgeport.

A jury had sentenced Russell Peeler to death for ordering his brother to kill Karen Clarke and her 8-year-old son B.J. Brown in 1999. The child had been set to testify against Peeler in another murder case.

Public Defender Mark Rademacher wants a new penalty hearing for Peeler. The defense isn't arguing Peeler's guilt, but they don't think he should have been sentenced to death. They argued today that the sentence should be overturned and Peeler should have the chance to fight for life in prison.

READ MORE: Connecticut Crime Stories

Rademacher argues that the jury received conflicting instruction when deciding the sentence. The defense also argues the prosecutor in the trial misled jurors into believing death was the only meaningful punishment.

Peeler's appeal includes more than 30 issues, including the state's repeal of the death penalty in 2012, which applied only to future cases.

The justices could take up to a year to issue a ruling.

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