Status Report on the 2011 Death Penalty Assessment Team Recommendations

DPA’s Public Advocate Damon Preston, along with prior Public Advocates and Executive Directors of the Louisville Metro Public Defender’s Office, compiled this report on the lack of action taken by Kentucky to address serious deficiencies in the administration of the death penalty in Kentucky. What follows is an excerpt from the executive summary, but you can read the full report here:

Kentucky was put on notice in 2011 that its death penalty process was systematically malfunctioning. The Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team issued a comprehensive Report with specific findings and ninetythree (93) corresponding recommendations. In the ensuing nine years, the following facts are noteworthy:

▪ Kentucky continues to experience an exceptionally high error rate in its death sentencing process;
▪ Seven death sentences have been reversed or lifted from defendants;
▪ Kentucky courts have imposed two additional death sentences on defendants;
▪ Kentucky has not executed anyone sentenced to death;
▪ Considerable disparity continues to exist by county in the imposition of death sentences;
▪ Kentucky spends an inordinate amount of money that it does not have to implement a flawed and costly death penalty process; and
▪ Kentucky has not taken significant steps to implement the ninety-three (93) Recommendations made to ensure the death penalty is administered fairly according to national standards and protocols.

In light of developments in the law and science since the 2011 Report, the American Bar Association has added another national Recommendation, i.e., states should prohibit death as a possible punishment for a person aged 21 years or under at the time of the charged offense.

To date, these Recommendations have not been fully and properly reviewed or acted upon by any branch of state government. This fact alone calls into question the legitimacy of continuing to seek the death penalty in statutorily eligible cases in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, let alone the imposition of capital punishment. Over the course of four decades, ample evidence has accrued indicating that Kentucky does not have a system that fairly and reliably assures who should be executed, which has created a real risk of executing the innocent, compromised the credibility of our courts and the outcomes of the judicial process, and robbed the rest of the criminal justice system of funds that could be used productively to protect the safety of Kentuckians and address other societal ills. Under these circumstances, ignoring the well-documented, authoritative findings and sound recommendations of such a respected, learned and balanced group of legal professionals cannot be justified.

Accordingly, the undersigned current and former public defender leaders, with nearly 200 years of experience in the practice of criminal law, have undertaken an analysis and update of the status of the statewide administration of the death penalty since the 2011 release of the Kentucky Death Penalty.

Read the full report here.