When I became Kentucky's public advocate in 1996, one of the first things I did was to call on policy makers to follow the American Bar Association's call for a moratorium on executions. I'd been a public defender for 19 years and, after handling numerous capital cases, had seen firsthand that the death penalty was broken beyond repair.
In 12 years as public advocate, everything I saw reinforced that view. I saw the death penalty was being used against the poor, people with mental retardation and mental illness, as well as people of color. I saw that many lawyers defending capital defendants were not qualified and that the death penalty was used in some counties but not in others.
The problems with the death penalty are once again staring us in the face. A group of prominent Kentuckians, including two former Supreme Court justices, has spent the last two years conducting an in-depth study of how the death penalty works in our state.