NEW VOICES: Kentucky Public Defenders Call for Moratorium on Executions

On November 23, Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan and Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender Dan Goyette called on the governor and the state's Attorney General to stay all executions until an assessment team formed by the American Bar Association can objectively review the state's death penalty. Monahan and Goyette wrote letters asking Attorney General Jack Conway not to request any further execution warrants and asking Governor Steven Beshear not to sign execution warrants until the ABA Assessment Team has concluded its study and issued a final report.

“There are serious and disturbing questions about the convictions of a number of inmates facing execution, particularly in those cases that were tried years ago by unqualified lawyers lacking adequate resources,” Dan Goyette said. “We should not proceed with executions until this independent evaluation is completed and we are assured that due process has been fully and properly provided in each and every case. To do otherwise would cast significant doubt on the fairness and propriety of imposing the ultimate punishment. We all have a fundamental responsibility to avoid at all costs the possibility of making an unjust and irreversible mistake.”

 Ed Monahan added, “The error rate in KY capital cases over the last 33 years is stunning and unacceptably high. It is compelling evidence that indicates the system is broken. This excessive rate of error shows that the system cannot get it right. A moratorium will prevent the execution of an individual whose conviction and death sentence has been imposed by an unfair and arbitrary system.” 

The press release from the defender organization noted: "Since 1967 Kentucky has executed three people (two were volunteers) and three KY Governors have granted clemency to five people sentenced to death. Since 1976, 92 death sentences have been returned in Kentucky state courts.  Currently, there are 35 people on KY’s death row. Of the 50 KY capital cases that have exhausted review by the Kentucky Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, 42 have been reversed."  The ABA Assessment Team has begun its review of Kentucky's law.

("Public Advocate and Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender Call for Moratorium on Executions while ABA Reviews Administration of Death Penalty in KY," Department of Public Advocacy Press Release, November 23, 2009).  See also Representation or click here for more information about the death penalty in Kentucky.  See also Studies.

In a related action, author Wendell Berry and former Kentucky Poet Laureate Sena Jeter Naslund were among 39 writers also seeking a moratorium on executions in Kentucky.  The group wrote letters to Kentucky's governor and attorney general calling for a stay of all executions while the entire system is reviewed. (See Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Nov. 25, 2009).