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DNA and the Death Penalty in Kentucky

PHOTO: State Senator Robin Webb (D-Grayson) says she will file a bill in the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly to further protect the preservation and handling of DNA evidence in death penalty cases. Photo courtesy of the Legislative Research Commission.
PHOTO: State Senator Robin Webb (D-Grayson) says she will file a bill in the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly to further protect the preservation and handling of DNA evidence in death penalty cases. Photo courtesy of the Legislative Research Commission.
November 13, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. – State Sen. Robin Webb says more needs to be done to make sure Kentucky does not execute an innocent person.

So, when lawmakers return to Frankfort in January, Webb says she will file a bill to address concerns about biological evidence, lineups, interrogations and mental health issues.

Webb admits, she personally is conflicted about the death penalty.

"You know, the thing is, we have it, I don't think it's going away and we've just got to make it fair and make sure that justice prevails," she stresses.

It was just three years ago, next month, that the American Bar Association released a report outlining the myriad of ways Kentucky does not "ensure the fair and efficient enforcement of criminal law in death penalty cases."

The report found that there have been a number of cases where biological evidence sought for retesting has been lost or unavailable.

Webb, who represents three counties in northeast Kentucky, says a bill passed in 2013 (House Bill 41) did expand access to DNA testing.

But, she says more needs to be done to protect the preservation of that biological evidence.

"And preserved for the entire period of incarceration for these individuals and even if a perpetrator has not been captured, or there's an open case, that this evidence has got to be maintained, and be maintained properly," she says.

Webb filed a bill during last winter's legislative session (Senate Bill 202), but it did not come up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rev. Pat Delahanty, who chairs the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says while the Coalition is happy with efforts to reduce chances of executing the innocent, there's a better solution.

"The best thing to do is to repeal the death penalty and keep in place that very reasonable, common sense punishment of life without parole that protects all of us and ensures that we never put an innocent person to death," he says.

Delahanty points out that the American Bar Association report has raised so many concerns – with 95 recommendations for change to the death penalty law – that it would take millions of dollars to fix.


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY