Lawmakers Seeking to Abolish Death Penalty Cite Cost, Morality, Mistakes
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Two chambers. Two lawmakers from different parties. Similar bills. Republican Representative Jason Nemes and Democrat Senator Gerald Neal are both filing legislation Tuesday in the Kentucky General Assembly to abolish the death penalty.
Saying he wants to "stand for life," Nemes, a conservative lawmaker from Louisville, says his bill is "about the soul of Kentucky" and for him, "a matter of faith."
"If I believe that Jesus wouldn't do it, I don't think my government ought to do it either and I understand there are differences," he said.
Senator Neal, also from Louisville, says like the Nemes bill, his legislation would eliminate execution as one of the five penalties now available to a jury in a death penalty case, making life without the possibility of parole the maximum sentence. The Legislature has repeatedly rejected that idea, with many proponents of capital punishment saying it deters crime.
Nemes, who describes himself as a "law and order guy," says his stance is also about the proper role of government. He says he fears Kentucky's death penalty system will make a mistake and that's not something he's willing to live with.
"I believe that our government has the right to take someone's life or liberty, only to the extent necessary to protect us," explained. "And I'm strongly in favor of life without the possibility of parole, not even coming up for a question for parole."
Since 1973, 157 people have been exonerated from death row in America, including one in Kentucky, yet execution remains legal in 31 states.
Neal says while lawmakers often cite morality or the "broken system" for their opposition, it's because of the cost of the death penalty that many lawmakers have "second thoughts..."
"In fact, find it not acceptable to pay for that process when they understand that it costs more to execute a person than it is to incarcerate them for life," Neal said.