When the judge sentenced Charles Copass to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Chelsey Mahaney the list of those eligible for the death penalty but not receiving it grew longer. Since 2010 only one person facing a death sentence has received it and it can’t be because the killings were not gruesome.
Less than a year ago KCADP published the following on this site:
If the sentence is to be used only in the “worst of the worst” cases as proponents claim, where is the internal consistency when a double child killer and rapist like Robert Drown, Jr. gets to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Or when the triple-murderer, Lloyd Hammond, is sentenced by a jury to life without parole. In another case, that of Clayton Jackson who killed three children, the prosecutor says justice was served when the jury sentenced him to life without parole. In a Jefferson County case which the judge described as the “worst criminal case” he had seen in 18 years on the bench, the prosecution did not seek the death penalty for a man who killed all four of his children. He was sentenced to life. In June 2013, William Blancet, Sr. – a triple-murderer – pled guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. This is unusual, not because of the facts of the crime, but because it happened in Fayette County where the Commonwealth Attorney has stated over and over again that he always takes death eligible cases to the jury.
In the case of Charles Copass, the local prosecutor filed notice to seek the death penalty, but then yielded to the family members of the victims who wanted otherwise according to a story published by the Park City Daily News:
Although Willis filed paperwork earlier in the case signaling his intent to seek the death penalty, he noted Tuesday that Mahaney’s surviving relatives’ preference for life without parole for Copass was a reasonable request.
“Their concerns are they need closure,” Willis said. “They will never get over this, but they’ve got to have a start.”
After the sentencing, Diane Mahaney, Chelsey Mahaney’s grandmother spoke to a reporter:
“I got just what I wanted,” said Diane Mahaney, the grandmother of slain 22-year-old Chelsey Mahaney. Chelsey was four months pregnant at the time of her brutal June 11, 2012, murder. “I just don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”
The arbitrariness of Kentucky’s death sentencing process shines through in this case. Had Charles Copass killed someone in another county he could just as easily be on death row now. Had he killed someone whose family members did not see the benefit of life without parole and who pushed the prosecutor to seek death he could easily be on death row. A system riddled with this kind of uncertainty, arbitrariness and just plain old unfairness needs to end.
And it will. Lawmakers are more and more skeptical that this expensive system is accomplishing any just purpose. Our hope is that Kentuckians who have concluded the same are engaging in conversations with their State Senators and State Representatives.