Death Penalty Opponents Sense Momentum, Still Waiting for Action
FRANKFORT, Ky. - More than a month into the 2013 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, bills have been filed in both the Kentucky House (HB 48) and Senate (SB 45) to abolish the death penalty, but neither piece of legislation has received a hearing yet.
Still, those who oppose executing a convicted killer say they still sense that momentum is building. Ben Griffith is among those who want to make life without parole the maximum sentence.
"I think you're on the slippery slope when you're asking the state to do killing for a victim family's closure," he said.
The death penalty remains legal in 33 states, but Kentucky is one of nine states where legislation to abolish executions is under consideration. Maryland lawmakers listened to testimony last week.
Griffith, who lives in Frankfort, has lived the death penalty debate first-hand since his brother, Christopher, was one of four people murdered in Missouri in 1986 by Donald Reese. Reese was executed 11 years later.
Griffith believes life without parole is "healthier" for family members of victims because closure can begin sooner.
"In the death penalty system, you're looking at a decade or maybe two decades of no closure," he said. "So, the victim family survivors are actually protracted in a long period of uncertainty."
Griffith said his own family was split on executing Christopher's killer. His two brothers favored the death sentence; his parents opposed it.
The chairman of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Reverend Patrick Delahanty, said the primary concern he hears from lawmakers is about the cost.
"The main thing that keeps coming up is the expense of this penalty, for which we get nothing in return."
Thirty-four men and one woman now sit on death row in Kentucky. There have been three executions since Kentucky reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
A link to HB 48 is at lrc.ky.gov, and one to SB 45 is at lrc.ky.gov.