For the first time in Kentucky, a legislative committee is considering a move to abolish the death penalty. The bill received a hearing in a Senate committee today. Senate Bill 63 would abolish capital punishment in the commonwealth, a move few other states have accomplished by statute.
The bill has the support of the American Bar Association based on a report the group released last summer detailing numerous problems with Kentucky’s capital punishment system.
Those problems include inefficient prosecutors and defense attorneys on capital cases, evidence that’s disposed after a conviction and trial misconduct.
Based on that, Northern Kentucky University law professor Michael Mannheimer says at least a temporary suspension of the death penalty is necessary.
“Given the numbers problems we’ve identified, the assessment team is convinced that Kentucky’s current operation of the death penalty does not ensure fairness or adequately guard against execution of the innocent," he says. " As a result after completing this two year review the team unanimously decided to recommend the suspension of executions until the issues identified by our report has been addressed and rectified."
The bill's sponsor, Senator Gerald Neal, echoed that feeling.
“If I was characterizing what I just heard, despite the fact of a lack of questions, I would probably conclude that, from my perspective, that the system as it now is operated is fundamentally broken,” Neal says.
The Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony for more than an hour, but did not vote on the bill. They also did not hear opposition testimony.
The committee’s counterpart in the House has also heard testimony on the American Bar Association’s report.