Kentucky AG’s office pushes to lift ban on death penalty



(The Center Square) – It’s been more than 15 years since Kentucky executed an inmate, but that may change as the state’s top law enforcement official is seeking to overturn a court injunction that dates back to 2010.

A hearing took place in Frankfort with Attorney General Russell Coleman’s office, arguing the order Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued in September 2010 should be lifted as state officials have proposed new rules regarding how capital punishment would be administered.

Coleman, in a statement, said his office is pushing for the ban to end because of its “commitment” to pursuing justice and for the sake of families of victims who have waited, in some instances, for decades for sentences to be fulfilled.

“As a prosecutor, I took an oath to uphold the law as passed by the people’s representatives. That’s exactly what I intend to do,” said Coleman, a Republican serving in his first year in office. “Now that Gov. Beshear’s administration has restarted the process to legally impose the death penalty, it’s finally time to deliver justice for victims and their families.”

Shepherd ruled nearly 14 years ago that the state’s protocols for carrying out executions did not comply with state law, nor did it prevent anyone with intellectual disabilities from being put to death for their crimes. Beshear’s office filed new rules regarding capital punishment last month.

The death penalty remains a divisive issue in the commonwealth as it splits lawmakers and officials from both parties. Beshear, a Democrat, stated a need for it in some instances while he campaigned for re-election last year.

This year, state Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, filed House Bill 38. The measure, cosponsored by nine Democrats and three Republicans, would have barred the practice in Kentucky and commuted sentences for anyone currently on the state’s Death Row to life in prison without parole.

Senate Health Services Committee Chair Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, filed Senate Bill 144 earlier this year as well. His bill was supported by Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill. Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, proposed Senate Bill 152.

None of those bills received a committee hearing during this year’s General Assembly session, which ended earlier this month.

Kentucky has 26 prisoners awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The state has executed three people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment nearly a half-century ago. The last was Marco Allen Chapman, who was put to death on Nov. 21, 2008.

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