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Kentucky legislators—both death penalty supporters and opponents—consider moratorium

Rep. Brent Yonts

Rep. Brent Yonts

From today’s Louisville Courier-Journal’sKentucky lawmakers weigh execution halt, task force“:

Executions in Kentucky could be halted for a year or more if lawmakers decide to form a task force to study how the system works and correct problems with how death penalty cases are handled, legislators said Wednesday.Members of the House Judiciary Committee said the proposal likely will be dealt with during the current legislative session, but the details of who would be on the task force and how long executions would be delayed remain unresolved.

The task force idea, though, drew the backing of both death penalty supporters and opponents who heard testimony that 64 percent of death sentences in Kentucky since 1976 have been overturned.

“This is too … serious to have this many errors in it,” Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, a death penalty supporter and committee member, told The Associated Press. “You don’t take people’s lives unless you know what you’re doing.”

The push for a task force came after members of an American Bar Association team presented lawmakers with a summary of a two-year study of Kentucky’s capital punishment system. The study found that state or federal courts overturned the sentences or convictions of 50 of the 78 people sent to death row since the penalty was reinstated in Kentucky in 1976.

The ABA committee, which presented its report in December, faulted how the state handles the severely mentally ill, the preservation of evidence and a lack of safeguards against executing the innocent.

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