Push to abolish death penalty in Ky. has bipartisan support in House, but uncertain future in Senate

01/17/2013 05:40 PM

Even though an effort to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky has bipartisan support in the General Assembly, it’s unlikely any measure will make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, is again sponsoring legislation to eliminate the death penalty with Senate Bill 45 . For Neal his opposition to capital punishment is primarily a fiscal issue. He referred to research that shows the cost associated with judicial appeals and administration of the death penalty is more expensive than keeping an inmate in prison.

A 2004 report in Tennessee showed death penalty trials cost an average 48 percent more than the average cost of trials in which the prosecution sought life in prison, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy and the Tennessee comptroller of the Treasury.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown has co-sponsored legislation in the House which would also abolish the death penalty.

Floyd said his decision was a, “faith based conclusion” and said others could follow.

“Like many big changes it may have to come slowly – with persuasion and education along the way,” Floyd said in a phone interview with Pure Politics.

But not all Republicans are on the same philosophical page in regard to their religion. Freshman Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who is the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he is not “prepared today,” to call the bill for a hearing.

Westerfield said he had prayed on this issue and that scripture points both ways on capital punishment.

“As a prosecutor the death penalty is something we need to keep around,” said Westerfield, who served as an assistant prosecutor in Christian County.

Westerfield said he is comfortable with the current system and said while he would not commit to hearing a bill to abolish the death penalty now, it’s possible he could change his mind in the future.


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