As the U. S. is on track to have the fewest executions in years, Kentuckians should reflect on what has been trending in our own state.
Nov. 21 marked the sixth anniversary of the execution of Marco Chapman by Kentucky. Chapman forced the state’s hand by refusing to pursue his legal appeals.
More importantly, this date marks six years during which there have been no executions here. Because Kentucky failed to hold public hearings required by law with regard to the regulation about how the state carries out executions, a judge stopped the execution of Gregory Wilson that Gov. Beshear had ordered for late 2010. But, after the Commonwealth held required hearings and got the rubber-stamped approval of members of a committee of the General Assembly, lawyers representing death row inmates challenged the new protocol in court.
Intervening botched executions in other states have now caused Kentucky officials to tell the court that they are revising the protocol. This has led to further delay. Currently the state is trying to cobble together yet another “protocol” for killing inmates. It will be at least six months before Kentucky MAY be in a position to execute anyone.
Since March,* 2010, Kentucky courts have only handed down one new death sentence and the last execution of a prisoner– other than two who “volunteered” to be executed by giving up their appeals– occurred more than 17 years ago.
In the past four and a half years, Kentucky’s courts reversed the death sentences of five death row inmates. Subsequently, two men pleaded to a lesser sentence; the Court ruled out a possible death sentence in the case of another; one man received less than a death sentence on retrial; and the last was sentenced to death again at trial. Error rates soar in this state.
It’s clearly time for policymakers and the public to ask themselves if life without parole, which is far less expensive than the death penalty and avoids the risk of executing an innocent person, would not serve as a more just and cost-effective alternative to the death penalty. Unlike the death penalty, life without parole is a swift and certain punishment that means what it says.
*This should be October, 2010. Carlos Ordway’s death sentence was subsequently overturned and he is now serving a lesser sentence. His is one of the five reversed cases cited above.
KCADP thanks our supporter, Marc Murphy, for permission to use his cartoons. Click on image to see full cartoon.