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Kentuckians Ask Governor to Halt Execution Until Broken System is Fixed

New polling data by the University of Kentucky released today reveals that Kentuckians generally agree that the death penalty is costly, risks killing innocent persons, is imposed by a flawed system and should be replaced by life without parole and other lengthy prison terms. Until it is repealed people want the governor to halt executions.

On August 1, 2016, The Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty issued a PRESS RELEASE, citing the new study, asking that executions be halted until the broken system is fixed.

On August 2, 2016, the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also issued a PRESS RELEASE calling for a moratorium on the death penalty until full implementation of the KY Assessment Team's reform recommendations.


The poll, conducted between March 4 and April 30, 2016, included interviews with 684 Kentuckians over the age of 18. Its margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percent. Its findings are:

  • Kentuckians overwhelmingly support a halt to executions until problems with the state’s capital punishment system are solved, and most believe that lengthy prison terms, including life without parole, are preferable to the death penalty as punishment for people convicted of first-degree murder.
  • Nearly three-fourths of the respondents, 72.4 percent, told interviewers they would support the governor taking such an action. That exceeded the level of support for the death penalty reflected in the poll (69.3 percent). Even among those who support the death penalty, 62.6 percent said there should be a halt in executions until the system’s problems are addressed.
  • Support for the death penalty also declined when respondents were given a choice of punishments for people convicted of first-degree murder, posed in the following question:
  • A query about the high cost of administering the death penalty found 68 percent of the respondents strongly or somewhat support replacing it with life imprisonment without parole.
  • The possibility of executing an innocent defendant also concerns most Kentuckians. Overall, 71.6 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that the capital punishment system risks executing the innocent. Of those who support executions, 61.4 percent agreed that there are risks of executing the innocent.
  • When considering the negative effect on victims’ families of the lengthy capital punishment process in Kentucky, nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents (64 percent) strongly or somewhat agreed that life without parole should replace the death penalty as a punishment.

The full University of Kentucky study results can be found HERE.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Death Penalty in Kentucky

Gov. Bevin Announces Kentucky-led Council on Criminal Justice Reform

Bipartisan council will undertake a comprehensive review of justice policy for reforms next year
With prisons at capacity, overdose deaths on the rise, and families fractured by incarceration, Gov. Matt Bevin today announced plans to seek a smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach to criminal justice in Kentucky.

Standing in the Capitol Rotunda with a broad coalition of lawmakers, advocates and policy leaders, Gov. Bevin introduced his newly-formed Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council. The 23-member panel will seek expert advice & study data-driven evidence over the next six months and recommend reforms in the 2017 General Assembly for a smarter, stronger and fairer system of justice.

“From the very beginning, America has been a land of second chances. Even so, many in our criminal justice system are not given a path forward to become productive members of society after they have served their time,” said Gov. Bevin. “I believe in the importance of supporting basic human dignity. When we hold individuals fully accountable for their actions while treating them with respect in the process, all of society benefits. I am excited today to announce the formation of the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council. Their purpose is to carefully study and then suggest actionable policy solutions for improving our criminal justice system.”

Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley will lead the council, and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton will serve as Special Advisor to the committee and Liaison to the Governor.

"While we have made great strides, Kentucky can get smarter on crime while remaining tough on criminals,” Secretary Tilley said. "By using data-driven policy and clear evidence, we can cut re-offense rates, improve reentry, increase drug treatment and treat mental illness – all while maintaining, and even bettering public safety.”


The U.S. Justice Action Network’s Jenna Moll presented at the first meeting of the council on the Lessons from the States: How a Country is Correcting their Corrections. Her presentation can be downloaded, HERE.


The Department of Public Advocacy has moved to:


I-64 East
Take exit 58 from I-64 E onto US 60E / Versailles Road
Take your first right onto KY-1681 / Duncan Lane
Turn right on Mill Creek Park (entrance to complex)
Take your first right in the complex
You will see the Department of Public Advocacy directly in front of you
Additional parking is located behind the building

I-64 West
Take exit 58 from I-64 W
Turn left onto US-60/Versailles Road
Take your first right onto KY-1681 / Duncan Lane
Turn right on Mill Creek Park (entrance to complex)
Take your first right in the complex
You will see the Department of Public Advocacy directly in front of you
Additional parking is located behind the building

The Advocate



  • Felony Expungement Law Passes
  • 2016 New Legislation
  • It's Time for Criminal Justice Reform in Kentucky
  • Misdemeanor Jail Credits
  • Fayete Child Support Specialty Court
  • 2016 DPA Recognition Ceremony


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Our Mission

To provide each client with high quality services through an effective delivery system, which ensures a defender staff dedicated to the interests of their clients and the improvement of the criminal justice system. The Department of Public Advocacy is an independent agency attached for administrative purposes to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet headed by John Tilley, Secretary. DPA is the statewide public agency providing public defender service in all of Kentucky's 120 counties as will as Kentucky's appellate courts.

History of the DPA

A half century ago the Kentucky Supreme Court held that "common justice demands" that an attorney must be appointed when a person charged with a felony is too poor to hire his own counsel. Gholson v. Commonwealth, 212 S.W.2d 537 (Ky. 1948). In the 1960s Kentucky attorneys began to request compensation when they were forced to represent indigents charged with a crime. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court determined that if a state wants to take away a person's liberty, it has to provide an attorney to those persons too poor to hire their own in order to comply with the Federal Constitution. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). While consistently unsuccessful in convincing Kentucky's highest Court that the judiciary could and should order payment, Kentucky's appointed attorneys did persuade the Kentucky Supreme Court to the point that the Court began to directly encourage the General Assembly to provide a systematic solution for paying the attorneys who were being made to represent the accused. On September 22, 1972, Kentucky's highest Court characterized the forced representation of indigents as an "intolerable condition" and held it was an unconstitutional taking of an attorney's property - his service to the client - without compensation. From then on no Kentucky attorney could be required to represent an indigent absent compensation. Bradshaw v. Ball, 487 S.W.2d 294 (Ky. 1972). While the appeal in Bradshaw was pending, the 1972 Legislature, at the request of Governor Wendell Ford, created the Office of Public Defender, now the Department of Public Advocacy (DPA), and gave it the responsibility to represent all persons in Kentucky charged with or convicted of a crime. House Bill 461 sponsored by Representatives Kenton, Graves and Swinford passed the House 60-18 on March 7, 1972 and the Senate 26-5 on March 14, 1972. It allocated $1,287,000 for FY 73 and FY 74.


See Also...
  CLE Opportunities for Criminal Defense Bar
Conferences, live distance learning, and recorded online distances learning from the DPA's Kentucky Public Defender College.

Department of Public Advocacy
5 Mill Creek Park
Frankfort, KY 40601

(502) 564-8006 - Phone
(502) 695-6767 - Fax

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Last Updated 8/2/2016