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Kentucky editorial roundup

August 28, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

Aug. 28

The Bowling Green Daily News on the plea entered by the suspect in the death of a 7-year-old Kentucky girl:

What happened to Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin on the night of Nov. 14, 2015, in Scottsville was a horrific tragedy.

On that fateful night, 7-year-old Gabbi was attending her older brother’s football game at Allen County-Scottsville High School when she was kidnapped, raped, sodomized and murdered by Timothy Madden, who Saturday pleaded guilty to the murder and kidnapping charges against him and entered Alford pleas on the rape and sodomy charges. (The Alford pleas result in conviction just like a standard guilty plea, but differs in that Madden is not legally required to admit guilt on those particular charges).

Madden not only took away Gabbi’s life, he also took away her innocence and her future. Because of this monster’s sick actions, Gabbi will never be able to obtain her driver’s license, go to school dances and proms, graduate from high school and college or get married.

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to have a monster like this take the life of their beloved Gabbi. No parent should ever have to experience what the Doolin family did on the night they lost their daughter, and no family should have to wait four years for justice for their daughter or son.

For nearly four years, we have watched this nightmare work its way through the legal system. We understand that Madden has rights, just as other criminals do, but almost four years for justice for the Doolin family seems like a long time.

Since this all happened, we have watched a change of venue granted due to pretrial publicity, we have watched as Madden’s former attorney was disqualified from the case in 2018 after Madden was unable to pay him anymore and we have watched as the Department of Public Advocacy was appointed to represent Madden.

We all anticipated a full-blown trial to begin Sept. 4 in Hardin County. We looked forward to the trial to see that this monster got the sentence he deserved, which we believed was the death penalty as the state was seeking.

The trial never came to fruition and Saturday it was announced that Madden entered Alford pleas on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy. Madden pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Gabbi. Under the plea agreement, the state is recommending Madden serve a life sentence with no possibility of parole. This is exactly the sentence this monster deserves for kidnapping and sexually assaulting this young girl before murdering her.

We have learned that negotiations resulted in the crafting of a plea agreement that Madden accepted and that satisfied Gabbi’s family, who Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan said preferred the finality of a guilty plea to the emotional extremes of the trial process and the prospect of lengthy appeals in the event of a jury sending Madden to death row.

“The family knew that there would be years of appeals (following a death penalty conviction) and (Madden) never would have admitted guilt,” Morgan said. “One of the things they wanted him to do was to admit that he had murdered their child. ... We wouldn’t do anything without the family being involved every step of the way in a case like this that is so incredibly personal.”

We don’t question the Doolin family at all for accepting this agreement. Hearing this monster admit he killed their daughter had to give them, we hope, some peace knowing the person who took Gabbi from them admitted he did in fact murder her. We also believe they made the correct choice in accepting the life without parole recommendation, because, as we all know, had Madden been given the death penalty, which our state barely uses on the condemned, they knew he would go on living for a long time while exhausting his appeals, perhaps eventually dying of natural causes.

We can’t imagine what the Doolin family has been through over the past four years. More than likely a nightmare that no one — unless they, too, have lost a child under similar circumstances — could imagine.

Final sentencing for Madden is scheduled for Oct. 23-24. The first day is anticipated to be devoted to Morgan putting on evidence that proves Madden’s involvement in the sex offenses and that expounds on how Gabbi’s death has impacted her family.

Madden’s defense team, led by attorney Tom Griffiths of the state Department of Public Advocacy, is anticipated to use the second day to put on mitigating evidence.

We are hopeful, along with the Doolin family and many other family members and friends, that Madden is sentenced to life without parole. This monster deserves nothing more than to sit in a tiny cell every day for the rest of his life and be reminded every day of the life he snuffed out and the family he took the beloved Gabbi from.

We know that in the final analysis, the final sentencing won’t bring Gabbi back to her family and friends. But hopefully in a small way it can bring a little bit of healing as well as closure to the Doolin family.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Aug. 26

The State Journal on proposed gaming legislation and reactions from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic gubernatorial challenger Andy Beshear:

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Andy Beshear is hoping to win the office by, among other ways, rolling the dice in support of expanded gaming — including legalizing casinos and sports wagering. With the issue likely to come up during next year’s General Assembly session, many believe that how far the topic advances in the legislature depends on who wins November’s general election.

Beshear, who supports expanded gaming as a way to provide a steady funding stream for public pensions, believes the state can’t afford to fall behind neighboring states and the rest of the country.

“We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” he said, adding that he would work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker.

The issue was initially broached by Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, who sponsored a bill to make sports wagering legal during this year’s regular session. Though the bill didn’t receive a committee hearing in the Senate, Carroll has said he is proposing similar legislation in 2020.

Two other state representatives — Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, and Al Gentry, D-Louisville — have also sponsored expanded gaming bills, with a cut of the proceeds funding the pension system.

Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin has remained staunchly opposed to the idea, citing the societal cost.

“Every night, somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had,” he said. “Families are ruined, lives are ruined.”

Bevin also said that the amount of money raised from expanded gaming wouldn’t be a magic pill for the public pension system and that it is not a viable solution.

Is expanded gaming the issue that makes or breaks the election for Bevin and Beshear? Probably not, but with both candidates in opposite corners, it is shaping up to be an important one in voters’ choice of Kentucky’s chief executive for the next four years.

Online: https://www.state-journal.com/

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Aug. 25

The News-Enterprise on a new rating system for Kentucky schools:

Ours is a society obsessed with rankings.

Whether taking a deep-dive into online research before a purchase or courting a good review from a recent customer, a high ranking and multiple stars is a Holy Grail in today’s marketplace of goods, services and reputation management.

Cities, counties and states vie for coveted top ranks versus neighbors across categories of economic development, crime stats, quality of life and more.

When it comes to customer service experience or product quality, we’re conditioned to believe without careful consideration a glowing five-star review guarantees we’ll be happy, no questions asked. But as the discovery of fictitious and fraudulent reviews on the websites of Amazon, Walmart and other retail giants prove, the truth isn’t always in the stars.

This sometimes problematic rating system now has found its way into Kentucky’s new school performance assessment system.

In coming weeks, public schools across the Commonwealth will receive performance evaluations for the past school year to include a rating of one to five stars.

Approved by the U.S. Department of Education under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 in 2017, this is the first year for the new five-star rating system. Prior assessment ratings of “proficient’ and “distinguished” no longer will be used.

State Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said the new system will better measure and promote improved access to higher quality learning, reduce equity gaps among student sub-groups and will build stronger cultures for instructional expectations and performance across Kentucky’s public school system. These are critical improvement goals considering 51 schools fell in the bottom 5 percent of Kentucky’s 1,220 schools.

Communities expect and deserve to know in clear terms how their public schools are performing in preparing children for successful futures. Certainly parents want to know.

When implementing another assessment change, one is left to wonder why an A-F system wasn’t chosen. After all, it is clear what each letter in that system means. While the tried-and-true letter grade system has worked across generations to measure student achievement or lack thereof, perhaps such a ranking system that includes the concept of failing would be too transparent for state education officials, district leaders and individual educators to use in assessing their own performance.

Most every mom and dad will understand how five stars differentiate from a rating of only one. But what about understanding the difference between a four-star school and one with a five-star designation, or a three-star and a two-star school? Will a one-star school be seen as a failure?

A committee of education leaders will complete its work in early September to establish criteria and standards to be used in the new star-based system. As policy, practice and funding decisions are influenced if not solely guided by assessment rankings, getting the details in the new system right is critical.

To best understand how Kentucky’s underperforming schools are making urgent and necessary improvement progress while top tier schools continuously advance, the state also must stick with a system over time.

Just as a change made in the grading scale won’t improve a student’s command of the classroom material being taught but only confuse or disrupt the measurement thereof, the same is true for measuring school, district and state performance.

Online: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/

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