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Resources to use with lawmakers during the 2015 General Assembly session

End Kentucky's death penalty

Please use #KYRepeal and #KYGA15 when posting on Facebook or other social media.

The documents listed above are resources to help Kentuckians who oppose the death penalty have meaningful discussions with their legislators. You may download and email these files or print them out and give them directly to your State Senator and State Representative.

scales_justiceContacting them can be as simple as making a phone call to the toll free phone number 1.800.372.7181 or sending an email sent through our legislative alert system. Most effective, however, is a face-to-face visit with them. KCADP staff and key volunteers are ready to work with you and make it happen. It is important lawmakers hear from you and know that repealing the death penalty in Kentucky is something you really want them to do.

So, first and very important: this is a bi-partisan effort. Democrats, Republicans and others support abolition and have filed bills. We must approach members of all parties asking for their help and not engage in partisan politics. We are urging a new public policy in Kentucky and that is important to all regardless of party affiliation.

Below is a description of the documents listed at the top of the page. Why you personally oppose the death penalty is important. But often legislators – busy with many issues – need education about the issue. This is why we are making resources available that address various aspects of the death sentencing process in Kentucky.

It is very important the legislators understand you are not suggesting violent murderers should not be accountable. They may ask what you propose to do with them. The bills that have been introduced repeal the death penalty, but keep in place life without parole as the maximum penalty. Here is a set of talking points about life without parole: Talking Points for Life Without Parole Instead of the Death Penalty.

mvfrLawmakers often ask about victim family members and suggest that we must kill the killer to help them, to bring them healing. Victim family members sit on our board, many have recorded videos calling for abolition. This document from Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation explains how the death penalty actually causes them more harm: How the Death Penalty Causes Additional Harm To Victims’ Families.

Everyone should be concerned that the use of the death penalty creates the possibility of executing an innocent man or woman. Kentucky had to release one man from death row who was not guilty and a dozen or so others who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Juries, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and others make mistakes. Provide this document to legislators so they can see that Kentucky doesn’t always get it right: Kentucky Makes Mistakes: Larry Osborne Freed From Death Row.

Kentucky’s Death Sentencing Process is Capricious and Arbitrary. This document lists cases for which the defendant was eligible for the death penalty, but received a lesser sentence. It is important because it shows how arbitrary our system is. A fair and just system implies that those who commit similar crimes are similarly punished. There are many on Kentucky’s death row whose crime was not nearly as heinous as those on this list who did not get sentenced to death. The Kentucky Supreme Court is required by law to compare all these cases to one another, but does not do so. One reason: proper records are not kept. Educate your legislators about this failure in the system.

Other voices are important to lawmakers so we have included three documents you should give them:

  1. Why Conservatives Oppose the Death Penalty; Support Life Without Parole outlines why more and more conservatives are urging abolition of the death penalty;
  2. He ‘murdered’ 5 men in Georgia; Dean Allen Ault Writes About Why He Opposes the Death Penalty describes Dean Ault’s experience that has led him to call for abolition of the death penalty; and
  3. Judge, Prosecutors Argue Life Without Parole Effective, Less Costly; Repeal Death Penalty is an article written by those who worked in the system and came to know its flaws.

If you are posting on Facebook, Tweeting, and using other social media, please use the hashtags – #KYRepeal and #KYGA15 – to draw attention to the fact that we are working together to end the death penalty. These resources should also be shared with friends, family members, co-workers and others to raise awareness in Kentucky of the need to repeal the death penalty and, instead, use severe prison sentences to punish killers, protect society and preclude executing innocent persons.

Graphics: Murder Victim Families For Reconciliation; and www.intellectualconservative.com

 

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Murder victim family member speaks from the bench: “Death penalty should not be a penalty, ever.”

Judge Goodwine

The Lexington Herald-Leader has reported that on Jan 8, 2015, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine announced that the “death penalty should not be a penalty, ever.” She also said, “Something needs to be done legislatively in Kentucky.” The article says she expressed frustration with the expense, time and emotional toll death-penalty cases take on participants.

KCADP agrees wholeheartedly with Judge Goodwine and applauds her saying what needs to be said so clearly and so publicly. During the 2015 legislative session lawmakers have an opportunity to heed what she says and do something “legislatively.”

Sen. Gerald Neal and Rep. David Floyd have each filed bills to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without parole: SB 15 and HB 82.

In addition each filed a concurrent resolution in hopes their fellow lawmakers will agree that it is important to determine what is the economic cost of this expensive system of death sentencing: SCR 11 and HCR 30. In Washington, Seattle University professors recently completed an exhaustive cost analysis. The law school website posts this:

An in-depth study by four Seattle University professors found costs related to pursuing the death penalty are about 1.4 to 1.5 times more than when a prosecutor does not seek death.

In another post KCADP will report in more detail the results of this study.

We have provided accounts of the “emotional toll death-penalty cases take on participants” in prior posts. Victims’ family members told us of their pain and suffering and why they have decided the use of the death penalty is no answer to their grief. Click here to watch a series of videos by victim family members on our YouTube channel. Or read accounts of what they said by clicking here.

Recently, the dean of the School of Justice Administration at Eastern Kentucky University, Allen Ault, offered compelling testimony to members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committee and had an article published in both the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Courier-Journal describing what he experienced after he “murdered” five men for the state of Georgia.

Judge Goodwine is absolutely right: Something needs to be done legislatively in Kentucky. Please contact your legislators and share your thoughts and hers with them: 1.800.372.7181.

For anyone thinking Judge Goodwine doesn’t understand the pain and loss associated with murder and has not been touched by violent crime, know that in 1979 her mother was murdered by a mentally ill relative.

Photo: courtesy of KYProgress.blogspot.com

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Neal, Floyd introduce abolition bills first day of session

Sen. Neal and Rep. Floyd testify on death penalty in Aug 2014

Bills to abolish the death penalty were introduced in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly on its opening day. Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Jefferson County, introduced SB 15; Rep. David Floyd, a Republican from Nelson County, introduced HB 82. Both legislators have filed similar bills in past sessions. To read the summary of the legislation and be linked to the entire text, click on the bill numbers: SB 15 and HB 82. KCADP expects both bills to be assigned to the Judiciary Committee in their respective chamber.

Also filed in each chamber by these same legislators were concurrent resolutions calling for a study of the costs of the death penalty in Kentucky. Click on the links to read the resolutions: SCR 11  and HCR 30. It is expected that both these resolutions will be assigned to the Judiciary Committee of their respective chamber.

Constituents contacting their Senators and Representatives can use these bill and resolution numbers to encourage their support for the measures. Lawmakers face a lot of issues and if they aren’t hearing about them, they conclude constituents aren’t interested. Advocacy for changing public policies is very important and legislators do pay attention to constituents who take the time to let them know what issues they consider important.

As KCADP writes about the session, readers will see two important hashtags – #KYGA15, to identify the legislative session we are in; and #KYRepeal, to mark the campaign we are conducting calling for support for legislation to repeal the death penalty and in its place keep life without parole. You will also see hashtags for the bills and resolutions: #SB15, #HB82, #SCR11 and #HCR30. Soon the website will have a set of documents and fact sheets constituents can download to use when contacting legislators. Remember, you can call toll free to 1.800.372.7181 and leave messages for your legislators about bills and to ask them to contact you to discuss your concerns.

At the top of the page on which you are reading this, is the Action Center link that allows you to send messages to those who represent you and to sign up for action alerts and information from the Coalition. We will have staff in Frankfort every Wednesday of February. If you can come up and pay your legislator a visit on a Wednesday or another day, please contact Shekinah by clicking on her name here or calling 502.636.1330.

Photo: courtesy Riverbirch Productions

 

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New voices calling for repeal of death penalty in Kentucky

Honorable Steve Ryan

 

 

It’s not every day that a judge who has sentenced someone to death and a prosecutor who successfully tried death penalty cases call for abolition of the death penalty. But in the past two weeks, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Courier-Journal have both published an article signed by three former prosecutors calling for an end to the use of the death penalty in Kentucky.

Joseph Gutmann

They note that three years have passed since the American Bar Association released a report “revealing serious problems related to fairness and accuracy in the use of the death penalty in Kentucky.”

Before becoming a circuit court judge, Steve Ryan worked as a prosecutor in Jefferson County. Joe Gutmann is a former Jefferson County assistant Commonwealth Attorney and J. Stewart “Stew” Schneider was an elected Commonwealth Attorney in Boyd County.

 

“Stew” Schneider

Their article, available in it’s entirety by clicking here or on the newspaper names above, summarizes some of the concerns raised by the report cited.

They point out that no action has been taken to address these concerns. The death sentencing process with all its flaws remains broken in Kentucky. They write:

Without question, this is a difficult issue, and efforts to “fix” the death penalty in Kentucky will be costly and time-consuming.

But there is one approach that is simpler and less expensive: Abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole for convicted offenders.

A growing number of legislators agree with them. Sen. Gerald Neal and Rep. David Floyd have pre-filed bills in their respective chambers calling for this solution: repeal the death penalty and in its place keep life without parole as the harshest penalty in Kentucky.

Constituents should contact their legislators and discuss these bills with them. In your conversations or other contacts with legislators provide them with a copy of this article by clicking here and a copy of the article by Dean Allen Ault, a professor at EKU and former Corrections’ commissioner in Georgia where he says he “murdered” five men for the state. Click here for Dean Ault’s article.

Supporters are urged to share the link to this post on Facebook pages and to tweet, post, text and email it to others. Educating the people of Kentucky will lead to abolition and restore credibility to our justice system.

Photos: we thank the authors for their photos.

Here’s an added treat – Stew Schneider is a contributor to our YouTube channel and here’s what he has to say:

 

 

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Death sentencing down in nation and in Kentucky

In July 2011 over in Barren County, the Commonwealth planned to put Miguel Angel Velázquez on Kentucky’s death row, but then abandoned that idea and allowed him to plead guilty to a triple murder in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. A hint of why was found in a news report: “[Commonwealth Attorney Karen] Davis said the agreement had the effect of keeping the public safe and avoiding the expense of a trial.” (Emphasis added.)

Over the past several years, while Kentucky’s executive branch has dealt with its unlawful protocol and the lack of availability of drugs to poison inmates, prosecutors, judges and juries have continued to bring violent killers to justice. But concern about costs and a new awareness that victim family members are satisfied with sentences less than death has resulted in surprising court outcomes.

Rather than death sentences in at least 16 death eligible cases,  lengthy sentences ranging from 50 years to life without parole have been imposed on defendants who most would agree are among the “worst of the worst,” the type of killers we have been told deserve death.

Yet in the cases of Robert Drown (Carter County, 2010), Raymond Clutter (Boone County, 2010), Michael Abner (Pulaski County, 2010), Raymond Harris (Bell County, 2010), Robert Maple (Carter County, 2011), John Devine Sr. (Jefferson County, 2012), Dalton Stidham (Perry County, 2014), Charles Copass (Barren County, 2014), and Ellen Crawley (Jefferson County, 2014) victim survivors, prosecutors who were planning to seek death, and law enforcement expressed support for the sentences imposed on these defendants. You can read a summary of these cases and others by clicking here. For more details on each of these cases, a Google search on the name of the defendant will lead you to more information about each case.

Repeal legislation will soon be introduced in the General Assembly when it meets in 2015. There will also be bills trying to get a study to determine the cost of the death penalty to taxpayers in Kentucky. Lawmakers need to hear from their fellow Kentuckians. They are probably not aware of the cases described above. But constituents could download that document and deliver it to their state representatives and state senators. The death penalty in Kentucky is not being imposed by judges and juries on the worst of the worst. And when it is – once in the past 4 years – it has a cost associated with it that we don’t know.

Kentucky judges, juries, victim family members and prosecutors have demonstrated the death penalty is not necessary. It’s time for lawmakers to reach that conclusion and repeal the death penalty while keeping in place life without parole as a punishment that protects us from violent killers and satisfies the demands of justice.

Graphic: courtesy of Death Penalty Information Center (Click on graphic to see its annual report.)

 

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