PADUCAH - An in-depth examination of the death penalty by state House and Senate Judiciary Committee members schedulef for Friday will mark a shift in the debate, according to Kentucky’s public advocate.
Public defender Ed Monahan said the discussion by lawmakers is moving from “Should we fix the death penalty?” to “Should we get rid of it?” Monahan said he wants Kentucky to make life without parole the maximum sentence.
“Law has to be based on not wasting people’s money, not doing it in an abusive way, and not doing it with enormous error,” he said.
The Judiciary panel is to meet at 10 a.m. Friday at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah - five months ahead of the next legislative session.
Katherine Nichols, a member of Kentuckians’ Voice for Crime Victims, is against abolishing capital punishment. Her brother was brutally murdered six years ago in Shelby County, and no one has been arrested.
“Not everyone deserves the death penalty, and I will tell you that - not everyone does,” she said. “But I think it needs to be retained for the ones that do.”
Nichols said that includes the person or persons who tied up her brother James Duckett Jr. six years ago, slashed his throat and stabbed him multiple times.
Life without parole is no guarantee that a convicted killer is going to stay behind bars, Nichols said.
“For the victims’ families, that is literally a prison to us,” she said, “because for the rest of our lives, we sit and we worry, ‘Are they going to be released?’ “
Lawmakers also will hear from victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty.
Monahan, who heads Kentucky’s public defender branch, called life without parole a “very effective sentence.”
“No legislature in the country will ever eliminate life without parole,” he said, “and that would not be a prudent policy objective of the Department of Public Advocacy to seek that.”
Eliminating the death penalty would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars which could be used on other social needs, he said.
Kentucky is one of 32 states with a death penalty. Of the 18 states that have abolished it, six have done so in the past seven years.