House resolution calls for task force on death penalty

Death Penalty protest
People held a banner and signs on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta during a vigil for death-row inmate Troy Davis before his Sept. 21, 2012, execution. (CNS Photo)

Catholics asked to contact their legislators; vote expected this week.

Record Assistant Editor

The Kentucky House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution March 12 that would create a task force to change the way the death penalty is administered in the commonwealth. The move was welcomed by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

The conference is calling on Catholics around the state to call their legislators and ask them to support HCR 173. The House is expected to vote on the resolution this week.

According to the resolution, the Kentucky Death Penalty Reform Implementation Task Force would  “develop a plan to implement recommendations of the American Bar Association’s Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report.”

That report was issued late last year by a team of retired judges, lawyers and legal professionals who spent two years studying the death penalty system in Kentucky and found it to be deeply flawed.

Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said the resolution moves the state in the right direction, though it falls short of its goal of ending the capital punishment system altogether.

“The bishops’ conference would prefer to see Kentucky move ahead by replacing the death penalty now,” with life in prison without the possibility of parole, he said in a telephone interview March 13. “If they (the task force) look at what the American Bar Association report recommends and look at what it would take to correct these flaws and the cost, they may come to the conclusion that it’s not worth the price.

“We can achieve the same thing with regard to safety of the population and punishing the perpetrators without the death penalty,” said Father Delahanty, who is also chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Father Delahanty also cited a 2006 study conducted by the University of Kentucky Survey Center that said 67 percent of Kentuckians prefer a sentence other than death. This task force, he noted, may help to increase that percentage as it stirs debate.

“The more educated people become, the more conversation you can have about this issue, the more people will see we need to abandon its use,” he said, noting that New York, New Mexico, New Jersey and Illinois have abandoned the death penalty in recent years.

“Those who support it,” he added, “they’re now in a minority. History will show they were on the wrong side of righteousness.”

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