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Historic Lows for Executions Nationwide, Zero Last Six Years in Kentucky

Greg Stotelmyer, Public News Service

The close of 2014 marks six years without an execution in the Bluegrass State. That's consistent with national trends, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution in Kentucky was in 2008.

Nationwide, the 35 executions this year are the fewest since 1994. Gretchen Engel, who heads the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, says high-profile cases of botched executions prompt people to question the humanity of the punishment.

"It really amounts to putting the state in the position of advocating human experimentation with drugs," says Engel. "That's just unacceptable in a civilized society."

Seven death row inmates were exonerated this year in the U.S.

Kentucky has announced it was dropping its two-drug execution protocol. A lawsuit by death row inmates effectively halted executions in Kentucky since 2010. They claim the state's lethal injection procedures amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Ed Monahan, the state's top public defender, works with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. He agrees with the merits of the inmates' case.

"The way we do things is so very, very important, and what we're learning through these botched executions is there is no good way for a state to kill somebody," says Monahan.

Lawmakers have rejected bills in recent legislative sessions to make life without parole the maximum sentence in Kentucky - a move Monahan says would be a much more effective use of taxpayers' dollars.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, three inmates have been executed in Kentucky, and 35 people are currently on death row.

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