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Judge rejects prosecutor’s attempt to seek death penalty

The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that Fayette County Judge Pamela Goodwine has removed the death penalty as a sentencing option when defendants go to trial:

“Co-defendants in an upcoming robbery-murder trial will not face the possibility of execution after Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine granted a defense motion to remove the death penalty from the jury’s sentencing options.”

In her order, Judge Goodwine provides an explanation of her decision. After describing the outcomes of other trials with similar facts, none of which ended in the jury sentencing anyone to death, Judge Goodwine concluded that no Fayette County jury would even seriously consider a death sentence in this case. Like other cases, the murder of Derek Pelphrey involved drugs and a large amount of money. Judge Goodwine’s five page order can be read by clicking here.

Fayette Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson

Judge Goodwine points out in a gentle way that Fayette County Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson does not use the discretion state law allows and seeks the death penalty in far too many cases.

Bringing every case to court and asking for a death sentence, instead of bringing the worst of the worst cases, consumes court time and resources that non-capital cases do not. In 2011 the ABA report on Kentucky’s death sentencing process prepared by distinguished Kentucky legal scholars and former Kentucky Supreme Court justices drew similar conclusions. They recommended establishing an entity to provide oversight of state prosecutors and death penalty decisions.

Judge Goodwine’s decision certainly highlights one of many ways using the death penalty in Kentucky has led to a broken, expensive system of justice. KCADP will continue to call for the repeal of this law. Only repeal will insure prosecutorial misconduct and discretion will not lead to costly trials and the risk of executing the innocent. Kentucky juries will still have the ability to sentence violent murders to life without parole. This assures safety for Kentuckians and severe punishment for murderers.


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