Press release from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
(August 2, 2016) The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACDL) again urges suspension of the death penalty until the serious deficiencies with the way it is administered are corrected.
Yesterday, we learned that a University of Kentucky Survey Research Center poll of our fellow Kentuckians found that most Kentuckians support a halt to executions until the documented problems with the administration of the death penalty are reformed.
As the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s largest statewide association of criminal defense lawyers, KACDL’s members have represented many capital defendants across the state and know firsthand the longstanding problems and the grave, literally lethal errors that have occurred in our system.
With this experience, KACDL in 2011 called on the Governor, the Attorney General, and other Kentucky criminal justice policy makers to fully implement the ABA Recommendations in the Kentucky Assessment Team on the Death Penalty Report and to institute a moratorium on executions until the ABA’s Recommendations were fully implemented. None of the reforms have been put into effect.
“We can wait no longer to make the system of determining whether a person should live or die right,” said KACDL President Ernie Lewis, who has represented many capital clients since 1977. “For the system to be fair and accurate, there are scores of major problems that must be fixed. These include, requiring that interrogations be recorded and eyewitness identifications be done in accord with national standards, exempting those with severe mental illness from the death penalty, requiring instructions to jurors that make sure they understand their precise responsibility in their decision on the sentence, and creating a forensic laboratory system that is conflict-free and wholly independent of law enforcement.”
“These are but a few of the many changes needed to have confidence in our system that has made critical mistakes in our state,” Larry Simon, former KACDL President, said. Simon is a former Assistant Commonwealth Attorney in Jefferson County who has prosecuted capital case and has represented a number of the 19 persons who have been wrongfully convicted in Kentucky.
“There are serious questions about the reliability of the convictions and sentences of a number of inmates facing execution, particularly in those cases that were tried years ago by unqualified lawyers lacking adequate resources, such as in the case of Gregory Wilson,” Dan Goyette, Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender and former president of KACDL, said. “We should not proceed with executions until the sound, sensible and fair-minded recommendations of this impartial, independent evaluation are assured in every case. To do otherwise would cast significant doubt on our justice system and the propriety of imposing the ultimate punishment. We have a fundamental responsibility to avoid at all costs the possibility of making an unjust and irreversible mistake.”
“The error rate in Kentucky capital cases over the last 40 years is not acceptable,” said Ed Monahan, Kentucky Public Advocate and former president of KACDL. “The errors are pervasive. They compel a conclusion that our system is broken. This stunningly high rate of error shows that the system cannot get it right. None of us would put our child on an airplane that returned to the airport over 60% of the time because of defective equipment. A moratorium is necessary to prevent the execution of a person whose conviction and death sentence were imposed unfairly.”