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Needed: just a few more great volunteers

Young supports sign up to help us by working together to end the death penalty.

Young supporters sign up to help us by working together to end the death penalty at a recent State Fair.

On August 20 the Kentucky State Fair opens for an 11 day run and KCADP will be there again. Why? Look at the picture of these youngsters and see the future: repeal of the death penalty in Kentucky. It takes a lot of help to staff this booth and we are fortunate to have so many loyal supporters who have already signed on to help.

But we need a few more on the following days: Saturday 8/22 – 4 persons needed; Sunday 8/23 – 6 persons; Tuesday 8/25 Quakers – 4 persons; Wednesday 8/26 – 4 persons; Friday 8/28 – 2 persons; Sunday 8/30 – 4 persons . Please contact Outreach Coordinator Shekinah Lavalle using the information in the graphic below. She can give you exact times volunteers are needed for the days listed above.

state-fairPhoto: courtesy River Birch Productions

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Death Row Emptied in Connecticut

Eduardo Santiago’s death sentence and that of 10 others declared unconstitutional.

When Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2012 they only did so for those who would be charged with capital crimes after the effective date of the law. Now the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that the 11 inmates left on death row must be removed. The Associated Press has reported that

In a sharply divided 4-3 ruling, the court declared the death penalty violates the state’s constitution, “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.”

Concerns raised in this case mirror those recently raised by the U. S. Supreme Court in Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent in Glossip and in the American Bar Association Kentucky Assessment Team’s report issued in December 2011: arbitrariness, discrimination, risk of executing the innocent.

The decision followed a two-year study of the death penalty system in Connecticut. The Hartford Courant reports that

The majority decision, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer, found flaws in the 2012 death penalty law, which banned “prospective” death sentences, those imposed after the effective date of the law. But the majority wrote that it chose to analyze capital punishment and impose abolition from a broader perspective.

After analysis of the law and “in light of the governing constitutional principles and Connecticut’s unique historical and legal landscape, we are persuaded that, following its prospective abolition, this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose,” Palmer wrote.

Why had lawmakers passed a bill that left the 11 men on death row? According to the Hartford Courant it was political compromise:

It was clear from its inception that the state’s “prospective” death penalty statute would undergo a bruising constitutional challenge. It was a compromise worked out between death penalty advocates and opponents in the aftermath of a horrific home invasion in Cheshire, during which two ex-convicts assaulted and murdered three members of the Petit family.

The resulting law, in the view of most political observers, was an expedient means of ending capital punishment in Connecticut while continuing to press for the execution of the two killers convicted in the Petit case, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The legislative debate anticipated one of the points made by the Supreme Court majority — that “following a prospective only repeal, the imposition of the death penalty would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Even the state’s top prosecutor, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, predicted that a death penalty applied only to crimes committed before April 2012 would fail constitutional review.

Despite misgivings, the General Assembly pressed forward with a law that would enforce death sentences in the Petit case.

John Holdridge, an attorney who who represents Komisarjevsky, applauded the decision Thursday that effectively moved his client and Hayes off death row.

“We are extremely gratified by the court’s decision, which was compelled by the rule of law,” Holdridge said.

Kentucky lawmakers plan to keep pressing for repeal of the law here by introducing new legislation in 2016. Bills introduced in Kentucky have not included provisions that left current death row inmates on death row. Their sentences would be changed to life without parole.

Photo: Connecticut Department of Corrections

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U. S. Supreme Court rules midazolam may be used in executions

Murphy Error Rate Death PenaltyToday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the use of midazolam in executions will have no immediate effect on Kentucky because Kentucky has no protocol in place and is unable to execute anyone at this time.

This ruling allowing the use of midazolam in executions ignores the fact that the death penalty is falling into disuse across the country. In Kentucky, the American Bar Association Assessment report highlights flaw after flaw in the system Kentucky employs to kill prisoners.

Throughout the country conservatives and liberals increasingly agree that the death penalty is broken beyond repair, regardless of how we carry out executions or which drugs are used.

The administration of the death penalty is extremely costly; the long and drawn-out process inflicts more pain and suffering on grieving families; and it is impossible to completely eliminate the execution of an innocent person.

The simple truth is that the death penalty cannot be fixed and that the only solution is to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole as Senator Gerald Neal (D) and Representative David Floyd (R) have proposed in bills they introduced in past legislative sessions.

In Glossip Justice Stephen Breyer dissented and called into question its very constitutionality. He wrote:
In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

The time for repeal in Kentucky is now.

Cartoon: used with permission of the artist, Marc Murphy

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Lethal Injection! Is Kentucky About to Kill Again?

Not expecting this to happen again anytime soon.

In June 2014, Joe Sonka, writing for LEO Weekly, reported that two recent executions in Ohio and Oklahoma that turned gruesome “touched off a renewed debate over the death penalty system in America.”

Four years earlier, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ordered a stop to executions in Kentucky until a new state protocol (regulations regarding killing inmates) could be developed and approved. He was responding to motions filed by attorneys of several death row inmates that the state’s protocol was illegally put in place and the judge agreed.

After the Department of Corrections revised its protocol and held the public hearing required by law, defense lawyers again challenged the state in 2012. In that new protocol the state said it would use two drugs, one being midazolam, the same drug Ohio and Oklahoma use during the botched executions.

Defense attorneys argued that the drugs themselves and the method of administering them violated provisions of the U. S. Constitution.

Judge Shepherd

By July 2014, Judge Shepherd said that “he had concern about issues surrounding the recent botched executions and signaled that it might be the time to revisit Kentucky’s lethal injection method due to changing circumstances,” wrote Sonka for Insider Louisville. Shepherd ruled the suit could go forward.

Sonka reports that one attorney for the defendants said, “Judge Shepherd has recognized the significance of the highly botched executions that have become a routine occurrence in the country, particularly when midazolam (a sedative) is used in an execution, and has decided that these claims need to proceed forward and go to trial with full transparency in Kentucky of what the Department of Corrections is doing, plans to do, and why they are doing it, and the means that are leading to so many botched executions.”

After this July ruling, Arizona botched an execution using these same drugs which U. S. Sen. John McCain described as “torture.”

In September Judge Shepherd said that defense attorneys could use these botched executions at trial in their lawsuit. Subsequently, in November 2014, according to Sonka in another article in Insider Louisville, the Kentucky Department of Corrections told the court it planned to “make changes to the administrative regulations that include, but are not limited to, the elimination of the current two drug execution protocol as adopted in 2012.”

The Department said it would “take six months to review and research potential changes to its lethal injection protocol.”

Seven months have almost lapsed since the Department withdrew its proposed regulations and no new protocol has been publicly revealed. KCADP awaits a new proposal and publishes this post because quite a few persons recently wanted to know where we are with executions in Kentucky.

Still on hold and awaiting the next proposal by the state.

Meanwhile since June 2014, new milestones toward abolition have been reached:

  • Democrat State Sen. Gerald Neal and Republican State Representative David Floyd filed bi-partisan legislation to repeal the death penalty in Kentucky;
  • lawmakers in the state of Nebraska repealed the death penalty in May 2015;
  • the number of former death row inmates released because they were wrongfully convicted has risen to 154;
  • a June 1 2015 Quinnipiac nationwide poll shows “that more Americans prefer life without parole (48%) than the death penalty (43%) for people convicted of murder. Since Quinnipiac last asked the question in 2013, support for life without parole has risen by five percentage points and dropped for the death penalty by five points;
  • Henry McCollum, a man identified by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as the reason the death penalty exists, is one of those 154 persons. He was released after 30 years in jail, 8 of them on death row, shown by DNA evidence to be innocent. In June 2015 North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory granted him a pardon; and
  • the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has adopted a resolution opposing the participation of pharmacists in executions by providing drugs to states for that purpose.

The countdown continues, but it is only a question of when, not if, the death penalty in Kentucky is repealed.

Graphic art: Rare Newspapers 
Photo: Office of the Lexington Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney

 

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Nebraska lawmakers abolish the death penalty; override governor’s veto

roll callNebraska lawmakers overrode Governor Rickett’s veto today and abolished the death penalty in that state. The vote came after hours of floor debate on the issue.

“This is another milestone in the march to complete abolition in this country,” said Rev. Patrick Delahanty, chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Delahanty said that Kentucky has a system as broken as Nebraska’s and a bi-partisan effort to repeal led by lawmakers in both chambers and parties. “This gives us every reason to believe,” he said, “that repeal in Kentucky is only a matter of time. The sooner Kentucky lawmakers follow in the footsteps of the Nebraska action, the sooner we will all be better off.”

The Coalition, informed by the ABA assessment report of 2011, knows that Kentucky has a broken, flawed system that jeopardizes the lives of the innocent, does nothing to bring healing to family members who lost loved ones to murder and wastes taxpayers dollars without providing the justice it promises.

Click here to read the New York Times account of today’s proceedings.

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