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Shifting Opinions on Death Penalty in KY

Public News Service

Over the past 10 years, eight states have abolished or overturned their death penalties, while governors in four other states have issued moratoriums.

So, is the tide turning in Kentucky, one of 30 states that still allows capital punishment?

It has for Amy Carrino, who says she was pro-death penalty for a long time. A criminal justice professor at Gateway Community and Technical College, Carrino says too many mistakes are made.

"The thought of putting someone to death that is innocent just really got me thinking, and eventually I have come completely to the other side," she states.

A 2011 report from the American Bar Association exposed a myriad of problems with Kentucky's death penalty system, including its cost and length.

Carrino has organized a panel discussion on the issue for Wednesday night, which she says is an offshoot of a community-wide reading project in eight Northern Kentucky counties.

Carrino says people across the region, including students in her criminal courtroom procedures class, have been reading "A Lesson Before Dying," a novel about the execution of an innocent man.

Bennett Nelson, a sophomore at Gateway, says it has him rethinking his position in support of the death penalty.

"I didn't realize how many people are wrongfully convicted and could possibly die for a reason that they didn't do anything," he states.

Earlier this year, a poll found that when Kentuckians are informed of problems with the state's death penalty, 72 percent were concerned about executing an innocent person and 64 percent favored making life without parole the maximum sentence.

Nelson says he now is leaning in that direction.

Gateway sophomore Shelby Carelock says she enjoyed the book, but she remains opposed to abolition of the death penalty.

"I still believe that it should be an option,” she states. “They should get an ample amount [of] time to defend their case with appeals, but I don't believe in providing three meals a day to some of these people that do deserve it."

The last execution in Kentucky was eight years ago this month.