State Representative Robert Benvenuti III, a Catholic lawmaker from Lexington, filed House Bill 508 on February 26. This bill adds “the murder of a victim aged 12 years old or younger or an adult as defined in KRS 209.020 as an aggravating circumstance for the death penalty.” In order to be sentenced to death, one must also be found guilty of committing another crime which is included in a list of “aggravating circumstances.” By continually expanding the list of “aggravating circumstances” lawmakers throughout the nation have guaranteed that the death penalty is no longer a sentence only for the “worst of the worst,” but remains arbitrary and discriminatory. Here is an example of applying it in a way that discriminates by age.
Here is the definition for adult found in KRS 209.020:
Adult” means a person eighteen (18) years of age or older who, because of mental or physical dysfunctioning, is unable to manage his or her own resources, carry out the activity of daily living, or protect himself or herself from neglect, exploitation, or a hazardous or abusive situation without assistance from others, and who may be in need of protective services.
The Coalition opposes this legislation, as it will any attempt to expand the use of the death penalty, especially now that seven states have recently abolished it and pro-life, conservative lawmakers are calling for its abolition in several states, including Kentucky. KCADP notes that in opposing this legislation there is strong support from Pope Francis who has said that the death penalty is “inadmissible, however serious the crime.”
Similar bills have been filed in the past and not been given hearings in Judiciary committees of the House or Senate. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee is State Rep. Darryl Owens and you can leave messages for him at 1.800.372.7181.