Fletcher has ample reason for clemency in Bowling case

December 03, 2004

Dear Editor:

Your Nov. 30 editorial summarized my criticism of Governor Fletcher's refusal to commute the death sentence of T. C. Bowling in these words: "The signing of a death warrant contradicts the governor's commitment to 'moral values,' including his opposition to abortion."

I was not writing about "a death warrant" in general, but about the T.C. Bowling case. Even supporters of the death penalty should favor commutation for Bowling. He had incompetent defense counsel during his trial, the case against him was thinly circumstantial, the prosecution failed to establish motive, and he is marginally retarded. On June 25, 2002, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the retarded was unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment." Bowling's I.Q. is close to the usual definition of retardation, and there is ample testimony that he has exhibited throughout his life the kind of dysfunctional behavior associated with retardation.

My point was that the weakness of the prosecution's case, combined with the mental infirmity of Bowling, was good reason not to inflict the ultimate and irremediable penalty of death.


I spoke of a further reason for commutation: the evidence that Kentucky's method of lethal injection creates a high probability that the apparently peaceful death of a person paralyzed by pavulon may in fact be preceded by extreme agony. We should not torture to death even a guilty person. Doing so is cruel and it degrades the humanity of the condemned person, the executioner, and the people of Kentucky who authorize the act.

Your excuse for Governor Fletcher was that "the governor will have to sign execution orders unless he can find some legitimate reason for granting clemency." He has been given many reasons for clemency, and you are aware of these reasons. If you think they are not legitimate, perhaps you should try arguing for your position instead of merely echoing the governor.

When I referred to "moral values" in my letter, I had in mind not abortion but such things as basic decency, compassion, and justice.

Brian Cooney


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