In the wake of last week’s American Bar Association’s damning assessment of Kentucky’s death penalty, the Frankfort State-Journal‘s editorial board weighed in. While it agreed that safeguards are needed to prevent innocent people from being executed, its argument that capital punishment benefits victims’ family members is unfounded and, in fact, wrong.
Modes of execution have evolved from the noose to the electric chair and now lethal injection and some argue even the latter is inhumanly cruel. The greatest cruelty, of course, is killing innocent people. ABA suggests Kentucky has too few safeguards to keep that tragedy from happening.
Families of murder victims most often view these issues through the prism of personal grief. Some make repeated trips to parole board hearings endeavoring to prevent the release of killers serving life sentences. As they see it, the relatives they lost were the ones sentenced to death – with no possibility of parole, ever. They have a point. Staunch opponents of capital punishment should imagine members of their own families victimized by barbarous criminals and honestly ask themselves if they would not demand a proportionally irreversible punishment.
A recent University of Louisville study stated, “The growing covictim opposition to the execution of the offenders in their individual cases highlights the resistance of victims’ families to accepting the responsibility for the state-sanctioned death of the offenders, specifically, and to the notion that the court can provide closure, more generally.”
Salon.com reported that, “No psychological study has ever concluded that the death penalty brings ‘closure’ to anyone except the person who dies, and there’s circumstantial evidence that it can prolong the suffering of grieving families.”
And here in Kentucky, prisoners on the state’s death row have been there since as long ago as 1980, subjecting victims’ family members to 30 years of court dates and appeals. (The appeals process for sentences of life in jail without parole is less extensive.)
Many members of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, including some of our directors, are family members of murder victims. They know Kentucky’s death penalty is too broken to fix. It needs to be abolished.
Photo: Courtesy Frankfort State-Journal