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Bishops fight death penalty

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky's four Catholic bishops have asked the governor to commute the death sentence of an inmate who has sought execution and is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 21.

The bishops want Marco Allen Chapman's sentence commuted against the inmate's wishes. Chapman pleaded guilty in 2004 and asked to be executed for killing two young children and attacking their mother and older sibling. Since then, Chapman has sought to fire his attorneys and waive all of his appeals.

The four bishops, Ronald Gainer of Lexington, Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Roger Foys of Covington and John J. McRaith of Owensboro said in a written statement that executing the 36-year-old Chapman is wrong because he is "playing God with his life and inviting us to participate with him."

"His request, and the State's willingness to grant it, demeans all of us, and makes us, perhaps unwittingly, participants in the suicidal ideations of a man unwilling to take responsibility for his tragic decisions," the bishops said. "For the State of Kentucky to help him in this delusion is inappropriate and does not promote justice."

The group met with Gov. Steve Beshear in July and renewed their request on Tuesday.

None of the four bishops was available Tuesday; all were attending the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Beshear's office, declined to comment because the governor might not have received the letter yet.

Chapman has been seeking execution since pleading guilty in December 2004 to attacking Carolyn Marksberry and her three children, Courtney, Cody and Chelbi Sharon at their home in the northern Kentucky town of Warsaw.

It is a policy of The Associated Press not to name victims of sexual assault in most cases; however, Marksberry has discussed her ordeal in national television broadcasts.

Chapman, in multiple interviews with The Associated Press, has said he's not suicidal. Instead, Chapman said, he just wants the sentence handed down to be carried out.

"I am merely asking the state to carry out my sentence of death by lethal injection so the Marksberry family can have the peace and justice they deserve for the crimes I've committed against them," Chapman said on Oct. 28.

The state's public defenders have asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to halt the execution while it considers a challenge to the lethal injection protocol brought by two other inmates. The justices had not ruled on that request as of Tuesday.

Kentucky has executed two people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Harold McQueen was electrocuted in 1997 for the shooting death of a store clerk in Richmond. Eddie Lee Harper Jr., waived his appeals and was executed by lethal injection in 1999 for killing his adoptive parents.

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