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Catholic Conference Hails Supreme Court Decision

Rejecting Executions for the Mentally Retarded

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.

The Catholic 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 inhumane behavior."

Kentucky outlawed 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."

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is the public policy arm of the state’s four Roman Catholic Bishops.

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Catholic Conference of Kentucky

1042 Burlington Lane

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

502-875-4345 502-875-2841 Fax cckstaffATccky.org

Last modified: October, 2010