Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman moves to restart executions

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman is moving to restart executions in Kentucky.

Coleman announced Friday that he has filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court seeking to end what a news release from his office called a “nearly 15-year ruling that has blocked the imposition of the death penalty in Kentucky.”

Coleman said the Beshear administration last week published an amended capital punishment regulation that would bring state “policy into full compliance” with earlier court rulings that had identified constitutional and other flaws in the state’s regulations and protocols. 

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In 2010, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd halted a planned execution and enjoined further executions until the state updated its regulations. The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld Shepherd’s ruling, which had found that the state lacked safeguards to prevent the execution of intellectually disabled or insane defendants and also held that the protocols conflicted with state law.

The state revised its regulations, but in 2019 Shepherd ruled them unconstitutional because they failed to provide an automatic stay if a Department of Corrections review showed “reasonable grounds to believe the condemned inmate is intellectually disabled.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing defendants who have an intellectual disability is a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment . 

Twenty-six inmates on Kentucky’s death row await execution. One of them was sentenced more than 40 years ago. 

Bipartisan bills to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without parole have been introduced in both chambers of the Kentucky legislature in this session but have not moved.