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2012 Champion of State Criminal Justice Award Recipient

NACDL Announces Jennifer L. Zito as the recipient of the Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award

Jennifer L. Zito, has been named the Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award recipient. Ms. Zito is the Past President of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. The award was presented at the SCJN Conference on Friday July 27, 2012 and at NACDL's Annual Board Meeting. 

Ms. Zito has practiced criminal and civil litigation in Connecticut for the last 24 years. Her practice focuses on the representation of juveniles and adults in all criminal matters. She has handled hundreds of criminal cases, from DUI, drugs, burglary and organized crime to sex offenses manslaughter and murder cases. Her successes include the case, McCoy v. Belmont, where she succeeded in holding the State of Connecticut in contempt of a consent decree in federal court for its treatment of two severely handicapped brothers at Southbury Training School. She has been featured as one of Connecticut’s Super Lawyers and ranked a “Top Attorney” in Connecticut since 2009. In 2004, she was elected to the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (CCDLA), later serving as its President from 2010-2011; she currently serves on the Committee as its immediate Past President.

Attorney Zito was recognized with this award for her persistent advocacy throughout her campaigns for numerous criminal justice reforms, particularly those involving the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut. Her death penalty repeal efforts have included testifying before the Connecticut legislature, organizing and speaking at press conferences, writing articles, meeting with key legislators, working phone drives, and organizing constituent communications to targeted legislators. She persisted in her fight against capital punishment until this year when Connecticut finally abolished the death penalty.

In addition to abolition advocacy, Ms. Zito’s testimony in support of several legislative initiatives including the passage of new laws involving eyewitness identification reform, habeas reform, electronic recording of interrogations, raising the age for juvenile proceedings to include 16 and 17 year olds, and house arrest for DUI offenders.

Ms. Zito demonstrated great leadership and devotion to her fellow state criminal justice reform advocates during years of litigation. “Jennifer never gave up the fight and we are grateful for that,” said Leonard Crone, President of Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. “Ms. Zito’s tireless efforts for criminal justice reform truly embody the championship of justice.

 “Jennifer’s dedication and commitment to criminal justice reform, no matter how unpopular, serves as a shining example of what a true advocate for the cause is,” stated Angelyn C. Frazer, State Legislative Affairs Director.

Zito is a 1984 graduate of Smith College and a 1988 graduate of the University Of Connecticut School Of Law

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