House Bill 203 sponsored by State Rep. David Floyd almost gained the necessary votes to be sent to the House floor for a full debate and passage. So many supporters packed the hearing room that an overflow room was opened to accommodate the crowd.
Rep. Floyd told the committee at the beginning that if there were time they would have heard from all those who had written letters of support: the Kentucky American Civil Liberties Union, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the Kentucky Council of Churches, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, the Kentucky NAACP, Victim Family Members of Kentucky (many of whom sat right behind Rep. Floyd), the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the evangelical voice of Dr. John Chowning and others.
Testifying on behalf of the bill were Marc Hyden, national coordinator of Conservatives About the Death Penalty, former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Gutmann and retired Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ryan. Theirs was an excellent presentation and what they said is captured in news reports of the hearing. They made it clear that our system is broken, expensive and so faulty it risks the lives of the innocent. They also noted it does not serve victims family members. A letter from victim family members to all the committee members stressed this also.
Press coverage of the event was extensive. Links below demonstrate how widespread coverage was. This is historic. It is the first time since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 that a bill to abolish the death penalty received a hearing with a vote. KCADP certainly appreciates the support of the 12 co-sponsors of the bill and the eight committee members who voted yes to support HB 203. We encourage readers to send notes of thanks to them.
Please thank our sponsor and co-sponosors – David Floyd, George Brown Jr., Tom Burch, Denver Butler, Kelly Flood, Jerry Miller, Darryl Owens, Arnold Simpson, Diane St. Onge, David Watkins, Jim Wayne, Susan Westrom and Addia Wuchner. You may click on a name to send an email.
Please thank the following committee members who voted to support HB 203: Rep. Darryl T. Owens [Chair], Rep. Kelly Flood, Rep. Chris Harris, Rep. Joni L. Jenkins, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, Rep. Reginald Meeks, Rep. Tom Riner and Rep. Kevin Sinnette.
Here are the names of those voting no with links in case you want to let them know how disappointing it is that they vote to maintain a system that risks taking the life of innocent defendants: Rep. Joseph M. Fischer [Vice Chair], Rep. Johnny Bell, Rep. Robert Benvenuti III, Rep. Jim Gooch Jr, Rep. Thomas Kerr, Rep. Stan Lee, Rep. Suzanne Miles, Rep. Ken Upchurch and Rep. Gerald Watkins.
One committee member, Rep. Kerr, spoke about St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and the government’s right to execute. In the Kentucky Today article (link below) Rep. Floyd asks, “How many innocent people do you think Saint Paul would want us to execute, so that we could execute the truly guilty?”
KCADP is also grateful to State Senator Gerald Neal who has for years been an ally of ours. Not only has he introduced bills to abolish the death penalty throughout the years, he was the sponsor of Kentucky’s Racial Just Act which became law in 1998. This remains the only legislation of its type in the U. S. Click on his name to thank him.
Press coverage links:
- Associated Press found in the Lexington Herald Leader
- The Louisville Courier-Journal
- Glasgow Times
- Kentucky Today
- WFPL NPR radio news
- cn/2 Pure Politics – This reports has good video clips of several who testified.
- The State Journal
- Kentucky News Service (which ran on Monday)
- Kentucky News Service (which ran on 2/29)
- The Record (published March 15 online and March 17 in print)
- The Washington Times – primarily the Washington D.C. area ran full AP story
In addition versions of the AP story or the story by Ronnie Ellis ran in Evansville’s Tristatehomepage.com, WSAZ in Huntington, WV, The Richmond Register, WEKU FM, West Kentucky Star, Messenger-Inquirer (James Mayse reporter), Harlan Daily Enterprise, Paducah Sun and WUKY (Josh James reporter).
The Sunday before the hearing, the Lexington Herald-Leader published its editorial calling for the abolition of the death penalty. This was a shift in their editorial position which had been keep the death penalty but fix it. Read “Ky. should abolish the death penalty” by clicking on the link.
On the Sunday following the hearing, The State Journal in Frankfort Kentucky published “A matter of life and death: Support for death penalty should be revisited” along with a powerful cartoon.
To watch the hearing you can click here. Testimony on the bill begins at about the 22:47 minute mark.
Photos: Pat Delahanty