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Senator Meyer dies; sponsored bill ending death penalty for mentally disabled

Retired senator, Danny Meyer, a Democrat from Louisville, died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, May 4. Danny was 80 years old and had retired from office in 1994.

Before retirement he worked hard to pass a bill to stop Kentucky from subjecting mentally disabled persons to the death penalty. He worked together with former state representative Dotty Priddy. In 1988 when Dotty’s House bill failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Danny attempted to amend a sure-to-pass bill in the Senate. However, now deceased Senator and Judiciary Committee chair Kelsey Friend objected that this amendment was a piggy-back to the House bill in his committee and the Senate President, Eck Rose, supported Friend’s objection and did not allow a vote on the amendment.

That ignited the fighting Irish spirit of Danny and he told me (Patrick Delahanty) that he wanted to sponsor the bill in the Senate in 1990 (the General Assembly was not yet meeting annually). He asked me to be his aide and provide him with the legal information he needed and he assured me he knew how to work the political side of the strategy. Eventually that included walking precincts in Senator Rose’s district and hometown, Winchester, Ky. Eck was appreciative and in 1990 with far less difficulty the bill sponsored by Danny in the Senate received its committee hearing and vote on the floor with only two Senators of the 38 voting nay.

Dotty, still the chair of the House Judiciary committee and sponsor of the House bill, promptly gave the bill a hearing and it passed favorably and later received overwhelming support on the House floor.

Because of their efforts, Kentucky became the third state to ban the execution of mentally disabled persons and this was significant in the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia declaring the practice unconstitutional and a violation of the eighth amendment.

Danny told great stories, was diligent in serving constituents and remained a good friend until this day. KCADP extends condolences to his wife Patty, his children, grandchildren and one great grandchild. His 57 years of marriage and his love of family flowed over in service to his community, his city and his state and we are much the better for it. Peace, Senator, and keep watch over us. Your work set us on the path to the eventual abolition of the death penalty for everyone in Kentucky. Thank you!

To read the Courier-Journal report on his death click on the campaign button at the top of this page.

Photo: Joe Gerth courtesy of the Courier-Journal

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