Frankfort, KY (June
20, 2002) – Kentucky’s Roman Catholic bishops praised today’s Supreme Court
ruling declaring that the execution of mentally retarded persons is cruel and
unusual and, therefore, unconstitutional. CCK is joining other death penalty
opponent in asking Governor Patton to include making Kentucky’s ban on
executing mentally retarded persons retroactive in his call for the next
special session of the General Assembly. New legislation is necessary to make
Kentucky’s law conform to the Court’s ruling.
Conference of Kentucky is calling the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v.
Virginia a "landmark ruling" which moves the United States closer to
abolishing all executions. The Court’s ruling reaffirms the Church’s teaching
that all human life, in all its conditions, must be respected. According to
Scott Wegenast, policy analyst for CCK, "Executing mentally retarded citizens,
even those who have committed horrible crimes, demonstrates the failure of our
government to recognize the most basic human right, the right to life. The
Church’s opposition to the death penalty reaffirms our humanity in the face of
the execution of the mentally retarded in 1990 when Senate Bill 172, sponsored
by Senator Danny Meyer (Louisville), passed the General Assembly. This
legislation was not retroactive and did not apply to mentally retarded persons
already sentenced to die. Kentucky’s bishops supported legislation in the 2002
Regular Session of the General Assembly to make the law retroactive. Today’s
Supreme Court ruling may determine the fate of two or three death row inmates
thought to be mentally retarded and sentenced after the 1990 law was passed.
Fr. Pat Delahanty,
a policy analyst for CCK, stated, "Our nation must abandon the death penalty
as have all developed nations. Today’s ruling is yet another illustration of
how the death penalty fails to serve victims, their families and our nation.
Twelve U.S. states and the District of Columbia have abandoned the death
penalty, including our neighbor West Virginia."
Conference of Kentucky is the public policy arm of the state’s four Roman