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Unfair, broken, and arbitrary

Whether a person is sentenced to death depends more on his or her race, wealth, and location than the facts of the crime.

  • “Of the last 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky, 50 have had a death sentence overturned on appeal by Kentucky or federal courts. That is an error rate of more than 60 percent.” [American Bar Association]
  • “At least 10 of the 78 people sentenced to death were represented by defense attorneys who were subsequently disbarred.” [American Bar Association]
  • “Kentucky public defenders handling capital cases have caseloads that far exceed national averages and salaries that are 31 percent below those of similarly experienced attorneys in surrounding states. [American Bar Association]
  • “The most far-reaching study of the death penalty in the United States has found that two out of three sentences were overturned on appeal, mostly because of serious errors by incompetent defense lawyers or overzealous police officers and prosecutors who withheld evidence.” [The New York Times]
  • “Among the state’s 57 prosecutors’ offices, some ‘will charge every death-eligible case as a capital case’ while most others do not. This means that the pursuit of the death penalty in Kentucky is largely arbitrary and capricious, determined by which office happens to be prosecuting the case.” [The New York Times]
  • “Of [Kentucky’s] 36 death-row inmates, 12 others have been waiting at least 20 years for their sentences to be carried out.” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “A survey of jurors serving in capital cases found a disturbingly high percentage failed to understand sentencing guidelines before deciding whether or not a defendant should be executed. This is not the fault of the jurors, but rather the failure to adequately instruct the jurors.” [American Bar Association]
  • ‘We’ve got a system in Kentucky where there’s not enough money for public advocates, for prosecutors, for drug courts, family courts, for juvenile services, for rehabilitation programs, and we’re using the money we have in a way I think is unwise,’ said Jason Nemes, former director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts. ‘Every dollar that goes to our ineffective capital punishment system is a dollar taken away from other needs.’” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “[Former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph] Lambert said death-penalty cases often become ‘legal monsters,’ and that while a decision about whether to abolish capital punishment is a ‘political question … it’s impossible to streamline death-penalty litigation to justify the cost, because doing so would dramatically increase the risk of wrongful executions.'” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “Judges presiding over capital trials [in Kentucky] often give inadequate jury instructions so that almost half of the jurors interviewed in a long-term study did not understand that they could consider mitigating evidence at sentencing, which could allow them to avoid imposing the death penalty.”  [The New York Times]
  • “Death was more likely to be imposed against black defendants than white defendants; death was more likely to be imposed on behalf of white victims than black victims.” [Houston Law Review]
  • “Capital punishment in this country remains arbitrary, biased and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair.” — Judge Boyce Martin, United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (which includes Kentucky) [U.S. Court of Appeals Wiles v. Bagley]
  • “Only 3 percent (92 out of 3,066) of the nation’s counties account for 50 percent of its death sentences.” [ACLU]
  • “The American Bar Association, while taking no position on capital punishment per se, therefore has urged the federal and state governments to halt executions in order to take a hard look at the growing body of evidence showing that race, geography, wealth, and even personal politics can influence every stage of a capital case–from arrest through sentencing and execution.” [American Bar Association]
  • Kentucky’s death penalty “system does not protect the rights of people with severe mental illnesses who, the United States Supreme Court has said, cannot be sentenced to death.” [The New York Times]
  • “Whereas, the function of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is to encourage fair treatment for, to foster mutual understanding and respect among and to discourage discrimination against any racial or ethnic group or its members. Now, therefore be it resolved,” The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights urges members of the Kentucky General Assembly to repeal the law allowing the use of the death penalty and calls upon the Governor to sign the same.” [Kentucky Commission on Human Rights]

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