justice

marsyslaw.us

The Kentucky Supreme Court has unanimously ruled against “Marsy’s Law,” a proposal that would have enshrined a new list of rights for crime victims in the state constitution.

Kentucky voters supported the measure by a wide margin during a ballot referendum on Election Day last year, but the court ruled that the entire 553-word proposal should have been included on the ballot instead of only a 38-word summary.

The language included on last year’s ballot was established by the Marsy’s Law bill, which passed the state legislature in 2018.

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Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. says the number of expungement requests have doubled since a new law went into effect allowing some convicted felons to clear their records.

Minton told lawmakers during his annual State of the Judiciary address that the Administrative Office of the Courts has received 8,400 criminal record reports for expungement since the law went into effect on July 15. He said that number is about double the number of requests at this time last year.

Minton said the number includes requests for misdemeanors and felonies, adding officials cannot separate the two categories. But he attributes the increase in requests to the passage of the expungement bill.

HB.40 allows people convicted of certain non-violent felonies to clear their records if they have no other pending charges.

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A new poll shows Kentuckians overwhelmingly support prison time over capital punishment for people convicted of first-degree murder.

Findings from a recent poll by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center show nearly 58 percent of people surveyed believe that lengthy prison terms, including life without parole, are preferable to the death penalty as punishment for conviction of first-degree murder.

Kentuckians also overwhelmingly support a halt to executions until problems with the state’s capital punishment system are addressed, according to the survey. More than 72 percent said they would support a decision by the governor to block executions until issues with the system could be addressed.

“It is important to note that this new poll shows that Kentuckians are increasingly concerned about the fairness of our criminal justice system,” said Marcia Milby Ridings, former president of the Kentucky Bar Association, in a news release.

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You are Letcher County, Kentucky. You are rural, mountainous, and in the heart of the central Appalachian coalfields. Your economy is not in good shape. Fox News has called your largest town “the poster child for the war on coal.” You are offered funds to build a new federal prison. It could bring jobs but also brings up troubling moral issues. What do you do?

Call it the prison builder’s dilemma: Letcher County and other rural areas are wrestling with a choice between a potential economic boost and the ethical burden of becoming the nation’s jailers.

Coalfield economies have been hit hard by the industry’s recent decline and Eastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District has been among the most affected. Today it has the second-lowest median household income in the country, and the second-lowest rate of labor force participation.

In recent years, a big chunk of the money flowing into the region has come through the Bureau of Prisons. Three federal penitentiaries have been built in the district, and now, money has been set aside to build a fourth — in Letcher County.