I am writing a piece on the death penalty for Insider Louisville, but I got sidetracked by this guy’s story. Please indulge me for a minute. Rest assured, I read your hate mail.
Since 1976, only three people have been executed in Kentucky. The two most recently killed were Edward Harper in 1999 and Marco Chapman in 2008. Both of them volunteered for it.
McQueen is the only involuntary execution in the last 50 years out of 78 people sentenced to death. About a third of Kentucky’s death row inmates have been there since the 1980s. Chapman was sentenced in 1981 and executed in 1997.
I’m not kidding; I want to know why. I cannot find any reason that makes any logical sense. Why did McQueen get fried, but no one else since (unless, of course, they asked for it)? McQueen is like almost all the other death row inmates in Kentucky. He was white, he was middle-aged, and he was convicted of a drug-crazed murder. His accomplice was convicted of the same murder and paroled in 1988.
The notoriously defendant-unfriendly, pro-capital-punishment clarkprosecutor.org, in its lengthy page on McQueen, quotes a prison psychologist who describes him as a “corrections success story.” It doesn’t look like he was involved in any prior violent crime (despite a lengthy criminal history, but damn near all the death row guys have that), and no one contends he was a danger to anyone in prison.
I have looked at it and looked at it and looked at it, and I have come up with two inescapable conclusions:
1) The only reason for McQueen to have been Kentucky’s sole execution in the last 50 years is his own incredibly bad luck.
2) A system that singles out one person out of a pool of death row inmates for execution in a 50-year time period, apparently based on nothing but that inmate’s incredibly bad luck, cannot possibly be constitutional, moral, or even sane in any way.
I am prepared to be proved wrong, but I think I’m right.