Ky. lawmakers considering whether to abolish death penalty - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. lawmakers considering whether to abolish death penalty

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Should Kentucky abolish the death penalty -- or does it still have a role in crime and punishment?

Lawmakers discussed the controversial topic at a hearing in Paducah Friday.

The hearing comes after a series of botched executions across the country. It focused new attention on the Death penalty.

It's been legal in Kentucky since 1976 but the state is under a court stay meaning none of the 33 people on death row can be executed.

Most of those testifying at the hearing want to keep it that way, pointing out minorities and the poor are more likely to be executed.

Democratic senator Gerald Neal, from Louisville, said at the hearing “There's a question of fundamental fairness or…unfairness to this particular system.”

Others are concerned about making mistakes.

“We should all agree it's not worth sacrificing the innocent to kill the guilty,” remarked Republican representative David Floyd, of Bardstown.

There was no agreement even among clergy about the morality of capital punishment.

Marion Taylor, of the Kentucky Council of Churches noted “The death penalty does not meet the moral standard of promoting redemption and restoring wholeness.”

Mark Coppenger, with the Southern Baptist Seminary mentioned the recent botched executions. “It's not good to read about a botched lethal injection that takes longer than they expected and I trust people can get that right, but to compare that to the suffering of those who were murdered is just -- it seems to me a little bit overwrought.”

Some lawmakers expressed concern the hearing was tilted toward those opposed to the death penalty.

Republican representative Thomas Kerr, of Taylor Mill spoke in favor of the death penalty. “Those of us on the committee, which I believe is a majority, who adhere to the death penalty don't have to be ashamed of our position.”

Democratic representative John Tilley, co-chair of the judiciary committee invited more supporters to speak. “A lot of folks on the other side refused to testify.” Tilley said “So if there's some perceived imbalance it's not from lack of effort.”

The committee will not make any recommendations but those on both sides say it's a conversation Kentucky needs to have.

Republican senator Whitney Westerfield, in an interview after the meeting, said “I may not ever be in favor of abolishing the death penalty, but I can't get there unless you spend time thinking about it and others do as well.”

No new death penalty bills have been filed for the 2015 session.

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