Of the 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky since 1976, 50 have had a death sentence overturned on appeal by Kentucky or federal courts because of significant legal errors. That is an unacceptable error rate of more than 60 percent.
Kentucky's justice system is at an historic moment. As a matter of basic fairness, we must pause to understand and reform the way capital punishment is administered in our state.
Each of us is a current or former prosecutor, some of whom have prosecuted capital cases in our commonwealth.
As prosecutors, we continue to believe that heinous criminal conduct must be punished severely in a way that advances public safety.
However, punishment must be a result of a fair process that produces valid results in which we have full confidence. It is time to suspend executions in Kentucky until the reforms recommended by a groundbreaking professional study are implemented.
This column is signed by John L. "Jack" Smith, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; Alexander T. "Sandy" Taft, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; Stephen B. Pence, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky and former Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky; Marc S. Murphy, former Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney; Michael J. "Mike" O'Connell, Jefferson County Attorney; Joe Gutmann, former Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney; Scott C. Cox, former Assistant U.S. Attorney; Larry D. Simon, former Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney; Will Collins, former Letcher County Commonwealth's Attorney; Jeffrey A. Darling, former Fayette County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney; J. Stewart Schneider, former Boyd County Commonwealth's Attorney.