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Former prosecutors call for repeal of death penalty

Three former prosecutors have called for replacing the death penalty with life without parole for those convicted of capital murder in Kentucky. In addition to being a prosecutor Stephen Ryan is a retired circuit court judge who sentenced prisoners to death.

Their plea was published in the state’s two newspapers with the highest circulation, the Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader, and we anticipate it will be published in other newspapers.

Joseph Gutmann, Stephen Ryan and J. Stew Schneider cited recent polling results in their article and reminded readers that a 2011 report from a Kentucky Assessment Team which studied the process for two years identified numerous problems with the way Kentucky implements the death penalty. There is extensive discussion of this report on this website. 


What Kentuckians Say MoratoriumThe writers point out that when the report was release in 2011 a poll found that 62 percent of likely Kentucky voters supported a temporary halt to executions until the problems identified could be corrected. They go on to say that in the most recent polling released last week Kentuckians would strongly support a decision by the governor to halt executions until the broken system is fixed. They write:

Here is the question the interviewers asked in the poll, which was conducted between March 4 and April 30, and included interviews with 684 Kentuckians over the age of 18 (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent):

“A two-year study by a panel of Kentucky law professors, judges, and other legal scholars found major problems in the administration of the death penalty in Kentucky and recommended that the state should suspend executions until those problems were fixed. In light of these problems, would you support a decision by the governor to halt all executions until these problems can be addressed?”

Nearly three-fourths of the respondents, 72.4 percent, told interviewers they would support the governor taking such an action.

It is significant that in the past five years not one recommendation made by the Kentucky team of legal experts to fix the system has been implemented. And the percentage of Kentuckians willing to support a governor’s decision to halt executions has increased by 10 percent.

No wonder then that these writers who worked for years in this system now conclude

These poll results make it clear that Kentuckians’ concerns about the fairness of the state’s criminal justice system are growing. Replacing the death penalty with life without parole is the best approach for our state — protecting public safety, providing justice to the families of victims, removing the possibility that an innocent person will be executed and saving limited tax dollars.

Graphic: KCADP using data from the poll by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center, 2016, ±3.8% margin of error

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