Editorial – Death penalty is a dead end

Marnie McAllister

Marnie McAllister

When people in Kentucky get all of the facts, a majority realize the death penalty is a dead end.

This is demonstrated in a new poll commissioned by the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The University of Kentucky Survey Research Center polled 684 Kentuckians last spring about the use of the death penalty in the commonwealth.

Rather than simply asking for the respondents’ opinions, the poll provided information about Kentucky’s death penalty and then asked its questions.

Most notably, after learning that Kentucky’s death penalty has serious flaws and that a panel of experts recommended the governor suspend it, three-quarters of respondents said they would support its suspension.

These flaws aren’t a matter of opinion.

A two-year study conducted by members of the American Bar Association, including two former Kentucky State Supreme Court justices, concluded in 2011 that the death penalty system in Kentucky “does not sufficiently protect the innocent, convict the guilty and ensure the fair and efficient enforcement of criminal laws.”

Outrageous as it sounds, these flaws were exposed five years ago and still nothing has been done to address them.

The poll also told respondents that at least 155 people nationwide have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die for crimes they didn’t commit. Understandably, more than 70 percent of respondents agreed that the death penalty risks executing an innocent person.

Most Kentuckians understand that there’s no room for error when death is on the line. Why don’t our lawmakers?
If the moral and ethical dimensions aren’t convincing enough, the poll also addressed the cost of applying the death penalty. Once again, a majority of respondents demonstrated their common sense.

If the moral and ethical dimensions aren’t convincing enough, the poll also addressed the cost of applying the death penalty. Once again, a majority of respondents demonstrated their common sense.

The poll explained that sentencing a person to death costs tax payers substantially more than sentencing a person to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Given that information, 68 percent of respondents supported replacing a death sentence with life in prison without parole.

Kentuckians seem to get it — the death penalty is a serious problem in Kentucky. It’s expensive, it’s risky and, for U.S. Catholics, it’s downright wrong.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the death penalty can be used “if this is the only possible way” of defending lives from an unjust aggressor, but notes that such cases in which execution is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” In the U.S., where prisons are a booming business, securing a prisoner should be no problem.

Pope Francis reiterated the church’s stance most recently in late June.

In a video message to the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, Pope Francis said of capital punishment, “It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance.”

“The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty,” he said. “It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.”

It’s time for Gov. Matt Bevin, who ran on a pro-life platform, to take a serious look at this flawed system, stand up for the dignity of every human person and protect Kentuckians from this injustice.

In the meantime, Kentuckians with common sense should call their lawmakers and urge them to sponsor legislation to abolish this flawed system.

MARNIE McALLISTER
Editor

1 Comment

  • Sister Mary Schmuck RSM says:

    Superb editorial Aug 11, 2016, St Marnie!

    Great thank you!

    Concluding paragraphs are new and so powerful!

    All blessings!

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