Kentucky may find out Monday if the state can resume carrying out death sentences. A hearing will be held in Frankfort on the state’s request to lift an order barring executions.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd halted all executions in 2010 after finding issues with Kentucky’s three-drug method for lethal injections. Attorney for death row inmates argued the three drugs caused an unnecessary risk of pain.
Earlier this year, the state switched to one or two drugs, depending upon the availability of the drugs.
Governor Beshear has requests to set execution dates for condemned inmates Robert Foley and Ralph Baze, but the governor has given no indication if or when he will act on those requests should the injunction be lifted.
Kentucky has executed three inmates since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976. The last was in 2008.
Two-thirds of Kentuckians support the death penalty as an option for murderers and oppose replacing it with a sentence of life in prison without parole. The Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll of 609 registered Kentucky voters shows 67 percent support capital punishment, while 26 percent oppose it.
Nationally, several states have been rethinking the death penalty in light of cases where individuals on death row were later exonerated. Two bills have been filed in this year’s General Assembly that would abolish the death penalty. In previous legislative sessions, efforts to end the state’s capital punishment system have received little support.
The latest survey doesn’t show much change from a 1997 Bluegrass Poll that showed 70 percent of Kentuckians backing the death penalty.
At least three death row inmates could be nearing execution as Kentucky moves toward a new lethal injection method, with the governor's office already having requests to set dates for two, and a third man out of direct appeals in his case.
Kentucky is implementing lethal injection by one or two drugs, depending on the availability of the narcotics, after a judge ordered the state to abandon or be prepared to defend using the old three-drug mixture. The change takes legal effect Feb. 1.
A spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says until an injunction suspending all executions is lifted, the governor can't move on carrying out a death sentence.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has called on the state to end the use of the death penalty, saying it is often applied unfairly against minorities and the poor. The commissioners, who enforce state and federal civil rights laws, urged Kentucky lawmakers in a resolution last week to repeal the law that allows the use of the death penalty in some murder cases.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of a Kentucky death row inmate awaiting execution for the slaying of three people in Adair County in 1993. The high court on Monday issued its decision without comment on the appeal brought by 39-year-old William Harry Meece.