Skip to content

We wish Shekinah our best

Shekinah Lavalle

Shekinah Lavalle

Over the past three years many of you reading this and hundreds of others in Kentucky have had the opportunity to work with Shekinah LaValle, Outreach Coordinator for the Coalition. She is moving on to new challenges and, as she does, KCADP thanks her for the past three years given to our work.

No one ever gets credit for all he or she does, because often that which leads to a dramatic success is the result of a whole lot of boring, grunge work that led to that success. Shekinah has organized volunteers for tabling events like the State Fair, scheduled many meetings with legislators and their constituents, as well as victim family members and wrongfully convicted Kentuckians. These meetings have led to a change of heart and mind on the part of several legislators. Shekinah has pushed the ball downfield as we are about to score the winning touchdown and abolish the death penalty in Kentucky. She will continue to volunteer for KCADP as she pursues her next life adventure.

Thank you Shekinah, we wish you the brightest future with great success in pursuing your goals and advocating for those whose voices are often not heard.

Prosecutor misconduct significant in Kentucky death penalty reversals

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) announced there is a new study by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project which reports that a handful of prosecutors are responsible for 15% of the death sentences imposed on defendants nationwide. The report also reveals that 20% of the more than 150 innocent defendants released because of wrongful convictions were prosecuted by these same overzealous individuals. According to DPIC:

The report says that the “over-aggressive and reckless” fervor with which the featured prosecutors pursue death sentences is “evidence that the application of the death penalty is—and always has been—less about the circumstances of the offense or the characteristics of the person who committed the crime, and more a function of the personality and predilections of the local prosecutors entrusted with the power to seek the ultimate punishment.” It concludes, “[t]his overzealous, personality-driven, win-at-all-costs pursuit of capital punishment seriously undermines the legitimacy of the death penalty today.”

Problems with the prosecution of death penalty cases in Kentucky were clearly outlined on pages xix – xxi of the summary of the American Bar Association Kentucky Assessment Report. This two-year study by some of Kentucky’s most distinguished legal scholars, practitioners and judges highlighted problems similar to what the Fair Punishment Project is now reporting. In its summary readers can find this on page xxi:

There is also geographic disparity with respect to capital charging practices and conviction rates in Kentucky. Since 2003, fifty-three percent of Fayette County murder cases have gone to trial compared to twenty-five percent in Jefferson County.

The Harvard report speaks a great deal about prosecutorial misconduct. Here is what Kentucky legal scholars reported after their two-year study of how Kentucky’s system works. Again, from page xxi:

Finally, the high percentage of reversals and citations of prosecutorial misconduct or error in death penalty cases acutely demonstrates the need for appropriate discipline to deter and prevent reoccurrence of such conduct, particularly when a life is at stake. Of the seventy-eight persons sentenced to death in the Commonwealth since the reinstatement of the death penalty, at least fifty defendants’ death sentences have been overturned by Kentucky state or federal courts. Of these fifty reversals, fifteen have been based, in whole or in part, on prosecutorial misconduct or error.

The newly appointed Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, if it is seriously interested in preserving the integrity and credibility of Kentucky’s justice system, needs to review the ABA’s Kentucky Assessment Report on the use of the death penalty and consider recommending its abolition.

Graphic: Courtesy of Death Penalty Information Center

Tagged with , , , , , , , .

New Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council should review facts about Kentucky’s Death Penalty

Governor Matt Bevin recently announced the formation of a Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council and KCADP finds this exciting. Writing in the Courier-Journal, he said:

This 23-member panel of dedicated people from across the Commonwealth will review existing research and data-driven evidence to build a smarter, stronger and better system of justice.

KCADP hopes this body is wise enough to listen to the facts about Kentucky’s broken death penalty system. At the end of 2011 a distinguished group of Kentucky legal experts issued a document reporting on their findings after studying Kentucky’s death sentencing system over the previous two years. Called EVALUATING FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY IN STATE DEATH PENALTY SYSTEMS: The Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report An Analysis of Kentucky’s Death Penalty Laws, Procedures, and Practices, the report made 92 recommendations that needed to be undertaken by the executive, judicial and legislative branches of Kentucky’s government in order to protect innocent defendants and insure the fair imposition of the death penalty. To date, no significant attention has been paid to these recommendations by the three branches of government.

The new Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council should include an examination of the use of the death penalty in Kentucky if it wants a system of justice whose credibility is not undermined by all those problems identified by the Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report. Growing bi-partisan support for abolishing the death penalty is already a fact here. Kentuckians deserve a justice system that is not wasting limited tax dollars on a broken system that is no longer needed and, in addition, risks executing the innocent. To suggest that could never happen here is to forget that it has already happened here in the case of Larry Osborne.

Photo: courtesy Kentucky Governor website

Tagged with , , , , , , .

“There is no fitting punishment without hope”

Vatican Radio has reported that Pope Francis sent a video message to attendees of the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty. In a transcript provided by Vatican Radio, the Pope said:

Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.

As he ended his comments the Pope described punishment without hope as “torture”:

There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment. Here is the video the Pope sent. To read the full text, click here.

If any readers are speaking with Catholic legislators who resist supporting abolition, ask if they have been paying attention to this and other recent statements by the Pope about the church’s clear teaching on this issue.

The Pope noted that public opinion is shifting regarding the use of the death penalty. KCADP is confident that is the case in Kentucky and is continuing to build capacity all over the state, focusing on finding even more persons who have worked in law enforcement to support abolition.

The 2016 Kentucky State Fair is in August and again KCADP will sponsor a booth offering materials and conversation for those wanting more information about how we plan to end the death penalty in our state. Should you wish to volunteer, please email the KCADP chairperson of the board.


Tagged with , , , , , , .

Senator Meyer dies; sponsored bill ending death penalty for mentally disabled

Retired senator, Danny Meyer, a Democrat from Louisville, died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, May 4. Danny was 80 years old and had retired from office in 1994.

Before retirement he worked hard to pass a bill to stop Kentucky from subjecting mentally disabled persons to the death penalty. He worked together with former state representative Dotty Priddy. In 1988 when Dotty’s House bill failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Danny attempted to amend a sure-to-pass bill in the Senate. However, now deceased Senator and Judiciary Committee chair Kelsey Friend objected that this amendment was a piggy-back to the House bill in his committee and the Senate President, Eck Rose, supported Friend’s objection and did not allow a vote on the amendment.

That ignited the fighting Irish spirit of Danny and he told me (Patrick Delahanty) that he wanted to sponsor the bill in the Senate in 1990 (the General Assembly was not yet meeting annually). He asked me to be his aide and provide him with the legal information he needed and he assured me he knew how to work the political side of the strategy. Eventually that included walking precincts in Senator Rose’s district and hometown, Winchester, Ky. Eck was appreciative and in 1990 with far less difficulty the bill sponsored by Danny in the Senate received its committee hearing and vote on the floor with only two Senators of the 38 voting nay.

Dotty, still the chair of the House Judiciary committee and sponsor of the House bill, promptly gave the bill a hearing and it passed favorably and later received overwhelming support on the House floor.

Because of their efforts, Kentucky became the third state to ban the execution of mentally disabled persons and this was significant in the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia declaring the practice unconstitutional and a violation of the eighth amendment.

Danny told great stories, was diligent in serving constituents and remained a good friend until this day. KCADP extends condolences to his wife Patty, his children, grandchildren and one great grandchild. His 57 years of marriage and his love of family flowed over in service to his community, his city and his state and we are much the better for it. Peace, Senator, and keep watch over us. Your work set us on the path to the eventual abolition of the death penalty for everyone in Kentucky. Thank you!

To read the Courier-Journal report on his death click on the campaign button at the top of this page.

Photo: Joe Gerth courtesy of the Courier-Journal

Tagged with , , , , , .

%d bloggers like this: