Despite appeals directed squarely at conservatives on the panel, a bill abolishing the death penalty in Kentucky couldn't gain traction in a House committee Wednesday.
Opponents of capital punishment argued the penalty is inconsistently administered, subject to faulty forensics and mistaken eyewitness testimony, and costs the state more to litigate than life without parole. Mark Hyden with Conservatives Concerns About the Death Penalty cast capital punishment as an expensive, poorly-run program, saying it fails "any sort of limited government litmus test."
But many on the House Judiciary Committee, including Paducah Democrat Gerald Watkins, were hesitant to take the option completely off the table.
"If you opt for life in prison, there's no guarantee that that's where that inmate will be," he told colleagues.
House Bill 203 joins a similar measure filed by Gerald Neal in the Senate. Legislation introduced by Lexington Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti would expand the list of "aggravating circumstances" that can trigger the death penalty option to include the murder of victims 12 and younger.
32 people current sit on death row in Kentucky and three executions have conducted since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the U.S. in 1976.