The time to end the death penalty in Kentucky has come.
A report released earlier this month on a two year assessment conducted by the American Bar Association [ABA] found that Kentucky's death penalty system is so broken and unfair that the state should declare a moratorium on executions. A moratorium would be a good start, and if Kentucky voters have any say in the matter, one will be imposed sooner rather than later. A survey conducted right before the report was released showed that strong majorities of likely 2012 Kentucky voters support a death penalty moratorium, and these majorities go across party affiliation, gender, and even geography within the state.
Source: Lake Research Partners survey of 405 likely November 2012 Kentucky voters, Nov. 30–Dec. 4, 2011, margin of error (±4.9%)
But a moratorium doesn't go far enough. The time has come to end the death penalty in Kentucky once and for all. (If you agree, sign this petition that will be delivered to Governor Beshear and members of the Kentucky House and Kentucky Senate.)
While the report credits Kentucky with taking some important steps to improve the quality and fairness of its death penalty process, the shortcomings are enormous. The ABA made dozens of recommendations that included passing new laws, funding facilities for preserving biological evidence, training of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, developing accountability and disciplinary measures for investigators, upgrades to the state's crime laboratories, policies and disciplinary measures to prevent prosecutorial misconduct, an overhaul of the defense services provided to capital defendants... the list goes on for page after page after page. Numerous recommendations include the phrase "provide funding for..."
Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center and author of The Death Penalty in 2011: Year End Report, notes that the nation as a whole is backing away from the death penalty.
This year, the use of the death penalty continued to decline by almost every measure... Executions, death sentences, public support, the number of states with the death penalty all dropped from previous years. Whether it’s concerns about unfairness, executing the innocent, the high costs of the death penalty, or the general feeling that the government just can’t get it right, Americans moved further away from capital punishment in 2011.
Ben Griffith recently wrote a letter-to-the-editor that was published by the Frankfort State-Journal. In it he said this.
To make the leap that murder victim families are united in wanting a death penalty continues the critical oversimplification of “paying a price commensurate with their crimes” and the pathetic use of a grieving family at a parole hearing to justify another murder. I belong to two different organizations of murder victim families (thousands of us) that feel victim survivors are victimized yet again when murderers are given the gallows. My brother was murdered in 1986 and his murderer was poisoned to death in 1997 by the state of Missouri. That is why I work as a board member of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Don’t lay the need to continue executions down at victims’ feet. (You don’t know the voices of all of us.)
Legislation that would ban the execution of people with severe mental illnesses, as well as legislation to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky completely, is expected to come before the Kentucky General Assembly within a few weeks.
There is a petition demanding an end to the death penalty in Kentucky. It will be delivered to Governor Beshear and all members of the Kentucky legislature, with results being broken out by district for representatives in the Kentucky House and Senate. You can sign it and then share it on Facebook, Twitter, by e-mail, etc.
You can also find your state senator and representative, along with their e-mail address and phone number, at Project VoteSmart.
Photo: Courtesy California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).
Disclosure: Louisville.com's editor-in-chief, Zach Everson, is on the board of directors for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He did not assign this article, nor did he make any revisions to the text the author submitted.
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