Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone will soon decide whether to exclude the death penalty for a murder defendant who was 18 when he was charged with murder and robbery.
In a 2005 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people who were younger 18 at the time of their crimes violated the federal constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments.
The defense team for Travis Bredhold wants Scorsone to extend that exclusion to people 21 and younger. Bredhold, 21, was 18 when he was charged Dec. 13 with murder and robbery in the fatal shooting of Marathon gas station attendant Mukheshbhai Patel.
Police said surveillance camera footage indicates that Patel, 51, was trying to comply with a robber’s demand for cash when he was shot. He died later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
Bredhold was “only five months and 13 days older than the limitation” established by the U.S. Supreme Court, public defender Joanne Lynch said.
More importantly, Lynch said, research indicates that people’s brains don’t mature until they are in their mid-20s. The Supreme Court ruled that people who are young and immature and who are likely to be more impulsive are not as culpable as a group and shouldn’t be up for the death penalty.
Bredhold’s defense team is asking to extend the exclusion “because people under the age of 21 are almost completely like people under the age of 18. You really don’t mature until you are in your mid-20s,” Lynch said.
Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn argued during a hearing Friday that there isn’t a “national consensus” on whether to extend the death-penalty exclusion to defendants 21 and younger.
In its 2005 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that states were reducing the frequency by which they applied capital punishment to juvenile offenders. At the time of the decision, 20 states had the juvenile death penalty on the books, but only six states had executed prisoners since 1989 for crimes committed as juveniles. Only three states had done so since 1994.
If the judge rules against the commonwealth, the appeal would be taken up by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office.
Bredhold’s trial is scheduled to start Sept. 5.