Cost Concerns Drive Conservative Opposition to KY Death Penalty
FRANKFORT, Ky. – As Kentucky lawmakers begin putting together a new state budget – with massive cuts proposed by the governor – people opposed to the death penalty say their stance makes fiscal sense.
Last October, self-described political and social conservatives in northern Kentucky joined a growing national movement – Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
The group's coordinator, Marc Hyden, says Kentucky could save millions of dollars by making life without parole the maximum sentence. He says the death penalty doesn't mesh with conservatives' desire for limited government.
"It's really the quintessential big, broken, wasteful government program," he states.
Hyden says longer trials, with more attorneys and expert witnesses, followed by multiple layers of appeals, make the death penalty expensive – a claim backed by studies in several states.
But death penalty supporters say it is a deterrent, and bills to repeal Kentucky's law have never gotten a vote in committee.
Since capital punishment was reinstated 40 years ago, the state has executed three men.
Hyden says when conservatives' distrust of government is mixed with the issues stirred by the death penalty, it doesn't make sense for conservatives to support lethal injection.
"There's the risk of killing an innocent person, so it's pro-life,” he points out. “It costs more than life without parole, so it's not fiscally responsible. But then, you find that it doesn't keep the public safe, and it's actually pretty harmful on murder victims' friends and family members."
Abolitionists are confident this year's attempt to repeal the death penalty, House Bill 203, has a chance to make it out of committee.
Hyden, who plans to testify, says it takes time to convince people to change their minds, but he believes it's possible.
"I'm one of those conservatives who actually used to support the death penalty, but I found out that my support was based on fallacies,” he relates. “And you have to separate whether or not you support the death penalty in theory from how the death penalty actually works in practice."
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill March 9.