The Record has published an editorial in response to its story last week about the hearing in Paducah on August 1, “Death penalty support is dying.” It concludes:
The Catholic Church, as everyone knows, has led opposition to the death penalty for generations. And now, like everyone else, church leaders can see and hear the attitudes toward capital punishment changing. The Paducah hearing testimony illustrates it; all of the polls show it.
It quantifies what is otherwise an immeasurable feeling in the air that, in the words of the late Sam Cooke, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”
On Aug 12, public radio’s Jonathan Meador filed this story – “Kentucky’s Death Penalty: A Comprehensive Look.” It includes extensive coverage of the August 1 hearing. Meador concludes the article by quoting one of the victim family members who came all the way from Louisville to Paducah to support abolition of the death penalty. Ruth Lowe, whose brother was murdered, said:
“It’s like taking the role of God on yourself, and I believe that God’s love, if you’re open to it, can change, can change your heart, can change your mind,” Lowe said.
“And God’s love is not about vengeance.”
Lowe has visited with several legislators this past year to encourage them to consider repealing the death penalty.
The Record, the newspaper for the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville publishes on Thursdays and has an excellent online story containing links to other stories and videos that resulted from the hearing.
The meeting of the Ky. General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee in Paducah captured the attention of the press on the day before the Fancy Farm picnic and political speechifying. A filled hearing room heard legislators, faith leaders, victim family members, lawyers representing indigent, capital defendants, and the dean of the Eastern Kentucky University School of Justice Administration call for repeal of the death penalty. On that same day a Lexington Herald-Leader editorial said, “Kentucky either needs to fix the problems with the death penalty or abolish it.”
(The meeting was live-tweeted by KCADP staffer Shekinah Lavalle, as well as our partners at ACLU-KY and the Catholic Conference. Search for #KYrepeal to see what they sent out. And if you tweet or post on FB or other social media about us, please use hashtag, #KYrepeal.)
Two lawmakers, State Senator Gerald Neal – D and State Representative David Floyd – R, both explained that each had moved from supporting the death penalty to calling for an end to its use. Each described how reflection on its implementation led to acknowledging that the time has come to abandon it. Its application is arbitrary, and it wastes resources the state could use to meet other more pressing needs. Both recalled how their thoughts about redemption also colored their conclusions about its use.
The Lexington Herald-Leader headline over the Associated Press report got it right: Execution debate finds new footing in Kentucky after botched attempts elsewhere.
And the Courier-Journal version of the AP story included this comment by Sen. Robin Webb, a supporter of the death penalty, who wants to see some changes: “Get it right, that’s what we have to do. And, we haven’t done that,” state Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, said. “My faith requires that we do the best we can if we’re going to have the death penalty. You’ve got to heal to forgive.”
The cn|2 Pure Politics story, “Potential changes to death penalty in Kentucky gaining traction among lawmakers,” included this statement:
Even some of those lawmakers who say they see a role for capital punishment acknowledged that the system must change at least to add more safeguards against innocent people landing on death row, which prompted other states like Illinois to ban the death penalty.
Dean Allen Ault gave some dramatic testimony and opened his remarks by announcing, “I have murdered five people as an agent of the state.” He went on to call capital punishment “the most premeditated murder possible.”
One of the most complete reports of the day is found in the Paducah Sun’s account of the hearing and in a separate story focusing on victim family members and their opinions and insights regarding the use of the death penalty.
KCADP Board Secretary and a member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, Ben Griffith spoke to committee members about his brother’s murder and the execution of the killer.
Dr. Marian Taylor and Jason Hall offered their insights from a faith perspective. Marian is the Exec. Dir. of the Ky. Council of Churches and Jason is Exec. Dir. of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. Both organizations are members of KCADP.
Kentucky’s public advocate, Ed Monahan, noted the wasteful use of resources and said it is time to fix or abandon the death penalty. Ernie Lewis, speaking on behalf of the Ky. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, educated committee members about the withdrawal of support of the American Law Institute for its own model statute upon which Kentucky’s death penalty law is based.
Photos: courtesy of Pat Delahanty, Riverbirch Productions