Frankfort, KY (August 2, 2002) – A Whitley County
jury’s verdict acquitting Larry Osborne of the December 1997 murder of Sam and
Lillian Davenport is yet another compelling reason to abandon the death
penalty in Kentucky. The jury’s decision clearly brings additional doubt and
questions about the integrity of Kentucky’s capital punishment system.
Fr. Pat Delahanty, a policy analyst with the Catholic
Conference, said, "The jury’s decision shows once again how human error and
weak evidence can wrongfully sentence people, including juveniles, to death."
Yesterday’s dramatic reversal resulted from the Kentucky
Supreme Court’s review of Larry Osborne’s conviction in 1998, when the trial
judge allowed the jury to listen to "hearsay" testimony of another juvenile
and alleged accomplice, 15 year old Joe Reid. In a bizarre twist, Joe Reid
died in a swimming accident after providing his testimony to a Whitley County
Grand Jury. Appeal attorneys argued successfully that this was inappropriate
because the prosecution’s key witness could not be cross-examined.
Fr. Delahanty stated, "Larry Osborne has been living with a
death sentence for the past three years and this is yet another example of a
broken system that can’t be fixed. Kentucky must abandon the death penalty as
twelve other states have done, including our neighbor West Virginia." The
Catholic Conference will continue to seek legislation abolishing the death
penalty in the state.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky supported legislation
in the 2002 General Assembly to end the use of the death penalty for
juveniles. House Bill 477, sponsored by State Representative Robin Webb, would
have eliminated the death sentence for juveniles. According to Fr. Delahanty,
"the Church’s opposition to all executions serves to reaffirm our humanity in
the face of inhumane behavior."