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Budget Crisis Sparks Call for a Moratorium on KY Executions

March 9, 2009

Frankfort, KY – The budget crisis has hit the courtroom in Kentucky, and cuts to the public defender system – which could be forced to shut down for two months – are the reason a group of criminal justice experts is calling on Governor Steve Beshear today to declare a moratorium on executions.

Former University of Kentucky College of Law dean Robert Lawson says the budget crisis is infringing on the constitutional right to effective counsel.

"When you've got the public defender's office saying, 'We don't have the capability of providing adequate representation to anybody,' there's a reason for more hesitation."

Lawson says when the budget crisis is resolved, executions could be scheduled again. But he says the budget cuts are also bringing to light more persistent problems in the state's criminal justice system, especially for death penalty cases.

"I've long entertained doubts about the wisdom of it. It's been highlighted by this budget cut. The public defender system has never been funded well."

Others joining the moratorium call include former Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Marc Murphy, former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice James Keller, and the Chief Public Defender in Louisville.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - KY