- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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May 10

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on a death penalty case:

Congratulations to Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine on striking a blow for common sense and conserving public resources.

Her order last week excluding the death penalty as a sentencing option in a case before her has been hailed and condemned as a stand against the death penalty.

While Goodwine, whose own mother was murdered, has stated she’s opposed to the death penalty, that wasn’t the basis for her order.

She knows that’s not her job, that eliminating the death penalty can only be done through legislation.

It is her job, though, to decide whether it’s appropriate to seek the death penalty.

Her carefully written order noted that the facts of the case - a single murder related to a dispute over drugs and money - “are not unique.” But, she writes, “not one time in this Commonwealth has a death sentence been recommended by a jury and upheld on appeal in a case involving actual or suspected drug trafficking.”

Goodwine has presided over more death penalty cases than any judge in Kentucky. Her experience and research tell her - and us - that juries in Fayette County, indeed in Kentucky, will only condemn someone to death who has committed the most egregious, horrific crimes. And often not then.

To understand what’s at stake, it’s important to know that in trials where capital punishment is an option the jury must be what’s called “death qualified.”

Only those who convince the judge and attorneys they are willing to impose the death penalty can serve. So, more prospective jurors must be called and examined more rigorously, eating up resources of the courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys and those in the jury pool.

Why expend resources and inconvenience prospective jurors, their families and employers when it’s obvious a death verdict will never be returned?

Consider some recent trials where the lives lost were much greater.

It took almost two months and 1,350 potential jurors to seat a jury in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing that resulted in three deaths and at least 250 injured.

For James Holmes, accused of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater, killing 12 and wounding 70 in 2012, it took from Jan. 20 to April 14 this year to seat a jury, from a pool of 9,000, willing to consider the death penalty.

Even after the jury is seated, a capital punishment case takes longer and costs more - calculations range as high as an added $1 million for the entire process - than prosecuting a murder where death isn’t a penalty option.

Prosecutors have the discretion to seek the death penalty, or not, depending upon the facts of a case. But, to avoid the appearance of bias or selective prosecution, Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson seeks it in every case where it’s an option, Goodwine wrote.

Despite this, no one has been sentenced to death by a jury in Fayette County since 2000.

That case involved not a drug deal gone bad but bludgeoning a 73-year-old woman to death then dumping her body in her car and setting it on fire.

Goodwine deserves praise for her order saving the judicial system enormous expense by acknowledging what juries have made clear for decades.

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com

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May 11

The Gleaner, Henderson, Kentucky, on opposing the so-called nickel tax:

It was disheartening, though not particularly surprising, to learn Tuesday that a petition to block the so-called nickel tax has begun circulating. The tax, passed by the school board on April 20, would levy a five-cent tax per $100 of property valuation.

Taxes, after all, are an issue near and dear to every heart. Unfortunately, we cannot wish the opponents well in their venture.

As we wrote a few weeks back, the need is just too great.

These are not cosmetic issues, according to an evaluation of facilities done in 2011.

Some are the nuts and bolts of keeping an old school open and usable: every school needs HVAC work; most schools’ systems are at least a decade older than their projected life spans. All but North Middle School need a new roof. Half have plumbing problems.

Others deal with the safety of the students and staff: Every school need improvements and upgrades to the fire protection systems and alarms. All need increased security at their doors.

Ten of the 12 schools are in need of some sort of work to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During a tour of Jefferson Elementary, its principal, Crissy Sandefur explained that the school is so crowded that broom closets have been turned into office space. Every room in the building has been turned into educational space and the school still needs temporary trailer classrooms. The only storage space in the school is on its stage.

The average age of the schools is 45 years. That jumps up to almost 49 years when you exclude A.B. Chandler and the Early Learning Center.

During the public meetings, opponents focused on the age of the buildings, with several making the point “Well, my home is older than that, and it’s fine.”

But what matters is the condition of the building, rather than the age. There are many homes more than 50 years old in our community and in excellent condition. But those homes are in good shape because regular maintenance has been done.

While the schools have been renovated over the years, only two - Henderson County High School and Central Academy - have had work done since 2000. Cairo, on the other hand hasn’t been upgraded in 25 years. South Heights’ last work was even longer ago - 1986.

No building, no matter how well built, can go 29 years without some sort of work. Especially if it plays home to hundreds of people eight hours a day five days a week for 10 months of the year. It’s no surprise most need serious work.

If the people circulating the petition successfully block the nickel tax, the problems won’t go away.

The district will have to limp forward, using duct tape and baling wire to repair the worst of the worst, until things actually begin to fail. And the price tag for even worse trouble five years down the road certainly won’t be cheaper.

There’s an old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sadly, those ounces - for whatever reason - have been ignored for years. Now we need a pound of cure to prevent five pounds of cure at some point in the future.

No, taxes are not attractive but sometimes they’re necessary. This is one of those times. The cost of blocking the nickel tax - both in dollars and cents for future repairs and the ability to offer a quality education in a safe environment - is too high to do otherwise.

Online:

https://www.courierpress.com

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May 11

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Constable doing a fine job for Court Appointed Special Advocates:

It takes a special person to advocate for children who have been abused or neglected and find their family status being determined by a court.

And it takes a person even more cognizant of those children’s needs to coordinate an advocacy program. That job also requires the difficult task of seeking and training volunteers and finding funding for the organization.

For those reasons, the shoes of Will Constable will be hard to fill. Constable has cultivated a lot of community support for Court Appointed Special Advocates since becoming director in 2002. Thanks to lobbying for various grants and funding, CASA owns its own building across from the Warren County Justice Center. It has room for offices, meeting space and programs.

Many in the community have pitched in to have fundraisers for the organization, with events such as an annual tennis tournament and annual Justice Served luncheon, where advocates are recognized.

City Commissioner Sue Parrigin was one of them.

“I first met Will in 2002 during a Leadership Bowling Green session, and he asked if anyone would like to volunteer with the organization, and I said yes,” Parrigin said.

The tennis tournament idea came when Parrigin was president.

“We were trying to think of something unique and different to raise funds,” she said.

Parrigin said it’s incredible what has happened in the time since that first meeting, mostly thanks to Constable’s leadership.

“We are serving more counties, more children and have a real presence in the helping children nonprofit area,” she said. “I just think of all of the children that he has impacted in such a positive way - that is his legacy. … So many of them have gone on to do really, really good things.”

Without CASA, those children might not have succeeded.

The purchase of the Paxton house, formerly the Bowling Green Police Department administrative offices, provides a permanent legacy for Constable and the organization, she said.

“I’m really pleased to have worked with Will all these years. His positive impact on this community can’t be measured,” she said.

“I want to be him one day,” she said.

CASA serves about 160 children annually from Warren, Barren, Edmonson, Butler, Hart and Metcalfe counties. It takes a good amount of community support for it to be successful. It needs financial support and a cadre of volunteers.

“Being the director of a small nonprofit is like sitting on a three-legged stool,” Constable told the Daily News. “You have to be a good administrator in the nonprofit world, you have to be good at fundraising and you have to have a knowledge of the justice system.

“From my perspective, it’s been fun, but difficult and both heartbreaking and heartwarming,” he said.

We wish Constable a well-deserved retirement and the board luck in filling his shoes. It will be difficult.

Online:

https://www.bgdailynews.com


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