Senator Gerald Neal has filed Senate Bill 41 in the Senate which is a bill that repeals the death penalty and keeps in place all the other options currently available to jurors in capital cases, including life without the possibility of parole. Since the bill was filed several other Senators have added their names to the legislation by co-sponsoring SB 41: Senators Perry Clark, Denise Harper Angel, Julie Raque Adams and Reggie Thomas.
In the House State Rep. David Floyd filed House Bill 203 which will accomplish the same goal as the senate bill: end the death penalty and keep in place all the other possible punishments a jury may consider under the current law, including life without the possibility of parole. State Representative Darryl Owens and Arnold Simpson also signed on as co-sponsors of HB 203.
A variety of voices have been raised calling for a change. KCADP published posts about the articles the Courier-Journal printed last November from Allen Ault, Ben Griffith, David Floyd and Marc Hyden. These four pieces make cogent arguments for repeal and you can download them as a package and give them to your state legislators. Click here to download all four articles.
In talking to legislators it is important to point out that there is now clear bi-partisan support for repealing the death penalty in Kentucky. More and more Kentuckians – especially from a politically conservative perspective – are recognizing that we should not be trusting government with the taking of human life. Courts in Kentucky and at the federal level have rejected death sentences in more than 60% of the cases in which it was imposed because the defendants’ constitutional right to a fair trial were violated. Moreover, an error rate this egregious can only lead to instances where innocent defendants risk execution, as did Larry Osborne, a 17-year old defendant convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that our Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously declared was an unfair trial. The prosecutor and judge allowed hearsay testimony that put Larry Osborne on death row. The jury in his second trial found him not guilty.
Cost is another issue causing legislators from both parties to take a look at this broken public policy. Jason Riley reported this in an article for WDRB on Sunday January 17:
It is an issue that even has Republicans and Democrats joining sides, in part because of the growing concerns about the cost of the death penalty.
Death penalty cases are costly because they require two public defenders, mental health experts, more filings and motions to the court and extra preparation while requiring a larger panel of potential jurors. And because each potential juror must be questioned individually about their views of the death penalty, jury selection can take much longer than in a typical case. And if a jury does recommend a sentence of death, the case will drag on in appeals for years.
“It costs an enormous amount of money to litigate those cases,” said [Joseph] Lambert, the former chief justice. “To be honest, in most cases, it would be cheaper to keep a convicted murderer in prison for the rest of his life than to litigate the question of death penalty and ultimately succeed in a death sentence down the road.”
The state Department of Public Advocacy has estimated that Kentucky spends as much as $8 million per year prosecuting, defending and keeping death-row inmates in prison.
You can leave messages for your state legislators at 1.800.372.7181. A staff person answers the phone and makes sure what you want to say is given to those who represent you. During the 60 days lawmakers are in session this phone is answered until 11:00 pm on weekdays, except Friday when the line is open until 6:00 pm. Only when you take action will change take place and we are working together to end the death penalty in Kentucky. Don’t forget to thank bill sponsors and co-sponsors.