Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton’s commuting the death sentence for Kevin Stanford, convicted of killing a woman when he was 17, could influence the debate over capital punishment for juvenile killers. “Symbolically, this decision is huge because it was the Stanford case in which the U.S. Supreme Court 14 years ago upheld the concept of executing juvenile offenders,” argues David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. “I think other governors and state legislatures will take notice.”
Stanford, now 39, was convicted of fatally shooting a gas-station attendant in 1981 after taking turns raping and sodomizing her with another assailant.
Victim-rights advocates argue that Patton’s decision will have little impact because a majority of the justices emphatically oppose reconsidering the issue of capital punishment for juveniles. By a 5-4 vote last October, the court refused to consider Stanford’s appeal, despite the objections of four justices who called the practice “shameful” and a “relic of the past.”
Kentucky prosecutor Dave Stengel said it is “fatuous” to think the Supreme Court “will look to Paul Patton to redirect their thinking.”