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States around KY moving forward with executions as Kentucky pauses

December 9, 2009

With its decision not to challenge a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, the state will put a momentary hold on death penalty executions to certify the process it uses for lethal injection.

Kentucky will be conducting a series of public hearings about its lethal injection protocol after that protocol was challenged in court. The hearings won’t challenge the method the state uses to kill inmates on death row, but is primarily an administrative task that wasn’t properly undertaken in the past, and therefore didn’t comply with state law. The court ruled that executions must be put on hold until the protocol is properly adopted.

And so far, the governor and many state leaders haven’t lent an ear to the pleas of those who want Kentucky to put an end to the death penalty, or at least put any executions on hold pending the results of an American Bar Association study of the how the state implements the death penalty. Five lawmakers asked Gov. Steve Beshear to hold off on appointing execution dates for three death row inmates that have exhausted their appeals.

But while Kentucky takes this momentary pause with the death penalty, executions are going ahead in the states that surround it. This Friday, inmate Matthew Eric Wrinkles is slated to be put to death in Michigan City, Ind., at the Indiana State Prison.

An article in today’s Courier-Press notes that the gap of more than two years between executions in Indiana is the longest since a nine-year gap spanning the late 1980s and early 1990s.

And to Kentucky’s northeast, Ohio executed an inmate Tuesday using a new, one-drug cocktail that differs from the three drugs Kentucky uses in its lethal injection method. Ohio overhauled its injection method after a stuggle spanning several hours to find a suitable vein in what was a failed attempt to execute the inmate, Romell Broom. Broom is now challenging his execution in court based upon the failed attempt.

The experiences in Ohio and Indiana show that the appeals will always run out, and the state can always find a new and innovative way to execute prisoners.

But the delay in Kentucky, though based on procedural challenges, should present an opportunity to take a deep breath and determine whether this state wants to continue killing in the name of justice.

As a victim’s relative said following this week’s execution in Ohio after seeing the inmate breath his last breath, “That was too easy.”

The death penalty is too easy. It’s too easy to think that executions will bring justice for society or closure for victims.

It’s too easy for the wrong person to be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death, only to find out too late that the wrong man was put to death. Just ask the state of Mississippi, which is now being required to compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, including former death row inmates, as reported by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Unfortunately, it appears it will be hard for the lawmakers in this state to back away from the death penalty, despite the mounting reasons why it is bad policy.

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