In January 2003 Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 163 men and 4 women on death row there. Prior to that he had declared a moratorium because he was appalled that more innocent persons had been released from that death row than had been executed. In his speech commuting these sentences he said:
As I said when I declared the moratorium, it is time for a rational discussion on the death penalty. While our experience in Illinois has indeed sparked a debate, we have fallen short of a rational discussion. Yet if I did not take this action, I feared that there would be no comprehensive and thorough inquiry into the guilt of the individuals on death row or of the fairness of the sentences applied. To say it plainly one more time- the Illinois capital punishment system is broken. It has taken innocent men to a hair’s breadth escape from their unjust execution.
The Death Penalty Information Center lists the names of 156 men and women released from death row in this nation who have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. One of those named is Larry Osborne, sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Larry was released from Kentucky’s death row when a jury in a second trial declared him not guilty. He received that second trial because Kentucky’s Supreme Court unanimously found he had not received a fair trial earlier.
In recent polling by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center, 71.6% of the respondents expressed concerns about killing the innocent. The poll revealed that although 69.3 % of Kentuckians support the death penalty in the abstract, nearly two-thirds, 61.4%, of them are concerned that an innocent person could be executed.
As found on the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty website, Jeff Frazee, Founder and Executive Director, Young Americans for Liberty has said:
I first supported the death penalty until I found out how many innocent individuals were being killed and how costly it was on the taxpayers. In a free and just society, we should always strive to protect life, most especially all innocent life. And, ultimately, it costs the taxpayers more to put a man to death than keeping him locked up for life. So after studying the issue, I now strongly oppose the death penalty.”
Even one innocent human life is too much to risk. It is time to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky.
Graphic: created by KCADP using data provided by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center