In the wake of the American Bar Association’s damning assessment of Kentucky’s death penalty, the Frankfort State-Journal published this letter by Ben Griffith, the family member of a murder victim and a member of KCADP’s board of directors:
To the Editor:
In response to your article appearing in Jan. 26 edition of The State Journal, “Local prosecutor not in favor of stop to death penalty,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland argues somewhat blindly that the “judicial branch already has the power to correct these concerns.” He hasn’t read the American Bar Association report or even a summary, or just plain doesn’t get what the report is trying to do. The report recommends a moratorium because Kentucky is doing so many things wrong that only the executive and legislative branches can address. Yes, the judicial branch is catching some of the errors; unfortunately it is also making some of the missteps.
If Cleveland had attended the hearing, he would have heard legislators concerned about “swift and certain” justice being the key elements to any law being a deterrent, and the facts point to a legal malaise in death penalty cases. It is a poisonous stew and it is exactly why a moratorium is recommended. If police interrogation, forensic experts, evidence storage, public defender training, prosecutor training, judge and jury training, leveling racial and economic hurdles, etc., were standardized statewide, then the judicial system could administer a swifter and more certain justice. Kentucky wouldn’t have repeated trial after trial, appeal after appeal and a 60 percent error rate in administering the death penalty.
What many of us who don’t support the death penalty suspect is the following: The real reason commonwealth’s attorneys resist any moratorium to fix the broken death penalty system is the public and legislators will awaken to the simple fact that there is absolutely no reason for it and we would save money without it. And as Cleveland’s unidentified Supreme Court justice might say, “If you jailed this son of a b**** for life without parole, then he ain’t going to be out killing another son of a b****. It would deter him.”
Frankfort, murder victim family survivor