In a recent poll conducted by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center, Kentuckians overwhelmingly (72.4 percent) said they would support the governor if he imposed a moratorium on executions until Kentucky’s broken death penalty system is fixed.
The level of support now is dramatically higher than it was five years ago when a Kentucky Assessment Team of legal scholars and practitioners issued a report after studying Kentucky’s death sentencing scheme for two years. Asked in 2011, “Do you support or oppose a temporary halt to executions in Kentucky so that the system can be more closely examined and identified problems can be fixed,” 62 percent of Kentuckians said they would support a halt to executions.
Just how broken it is can be seen in this list of the key findings of the Kentucky Assessment Team.
- High error rate in death penalty cases
- Inadequate retention of evidence
- Law enforcement inadequately protects against wrongful conviction
- Inconsistent application of the death penalty
- Juror confusion about sentencing guidelines
- Low pay for public defenders
- Unqualified defense attorneys
- Inadequate protections for the mentally ill
The team also pointed out that there is a lack of data-keeping throughout the administration of the death penalty in Kentucky, making it impossible to guarantee that the system is operating fairly, effectively and efficiently.
After the report was issued in December, members of the team explained their findings and their recommendations to committees of the Kentucky General Assembly and spoke with staff in the executive and judicial branches of governments. To date no action by any branch of government has been taken to address the findings of this report.
Everyone on Kentucky’s death row ended up there using this seriously flawed and broken system. Kentuckians get it and that is why 72.4 percent now say they would support a governor’s decision to halt executions. Kentuckians want a system that is credible, efficient, effective and, most importantly, guarantees that innocent life is protected from executions.
Governor Matt Bevin has appointed a 23-member committee to explore ways to reform the criminal justice system in Kentucky. KCADP believes that committee should include an examination of the findings and recommendations of the Kentucky Assessment Team and offer effective proposals that reduce the risk of killing innocent defendants. Until this is done, Governor Bevin should halt all executions.
Ultimately, KCADP wants to see the death penalty abolished. There can be no perfect system. We certainly support efforts to hand down fair judgments and punishments, but, human beings make mistakes. There is only one way to insure no innocent person is ever killed by our government: take away Kentucky’s power to kill by abolishing the death penalty.
Graphic: created by KCADP using data provided by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center