John Y.’s Musings from the Middle: The Death Penalty

The American Bar Association recently recommended that KY indefinitely halt all executions after a study showed a high rate of convictions being reversed.

I think this is an excellent idea.

When I was secretary of state I was put in a position to sign off on death warrants ordered by the state. I talked to law professors and attorneys involved with the cases and couldn’t bring myself to sign off in my on hand. I let the office signature machine sign my name. Although my signature was just a formality that the order had been received and filed–not a policy decision I could impact– the symbolism of signing jarred me. The death penalty was no longer an interesting hypothetical question. It was happening and my job was step in the process, albeit administrative only.

I’m not yet willing to say the death penalty should be abolished altogether. But I hope this moratorium brings fresh insight and information to a stale debate on an important criminal justice option available in the Commonwealth—aimed mostly at deterring rather than punishing our most heinous crimes.


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