Ralph Baze Continues To Fight Execution

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Associated Press Writer

EDDYVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Ralph Baze knows the chances are good that he will be executed on Sept. 25. But, he says, he won't go quietly.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Baze said he never got a fair trial or appeal. Baze also admitted to shooting and killing Powell County Sheriff Keith Bennett and Deputy Arthur Briscoe in 1992.

"I've never tried to hide - good or bad - any of it," Baze said. "I'll take my punishment."

Baze said the shooting was the result of a family dispute that got out of hand. Prosecutors repeatedly twisted testimony and the facts of the case because the victims worked in law enforcement, Baze said.

"Nobody has taken the time to look at the facts," Baze said.

In the last four months, Baze has sent letters to state Attorney General Greg Stumbo, the Kentucky Supreme Court and the commonwealth's attorney who prosecuted him, alleging misconduct by the attorney general's office and multiple judges.

Stumbo's office denies any wrongdoing and said the facts of the case show Baze is guilty.

Last month, Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a death warrant for Baze, 52. It's the second time Baze has faced an imminent execution. A judge stayed the previous execution order in 2002. Baze is also the plaintiff in two federal civil suits, one challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection, another contesting the way Kentucky purchases the three drugs used in an execution.

Both suits are pending.

Kentucky has conducted one other lethal injection execution, putting Eddie Lee Harper to death in 1999.

Baze has selected a priest from Ohio, a prison minister and two attorneys to serve as his witnesses to the execution. He is considering bypassing a last meal and fasting instead.

After 14 years on death row, Baze hardly resembles the thin, shaggy-haired man arrested after the shooting. Now Baze spends his days dressed in a red inmate's uniform. His hair is shaggy blonde with a mix of gray and he is much stockier than when he first arrived at the Kentucky State Penitentiary.

Prosecutors have said Baze fired the first shot at Bennett and Briscoe, citing testimony of Baze's wife, Becky. Baze said he did not fire first, instead he heard a shot from a .22-caliber rifle and then fired.

"This is one of the absolutes we can prove," Baze said.

Baze became quite animated - at times standing and re-enacting parts of the event - during the interview. At other times, his voice grew loud as he emphasized specific points.

"I get loud when I get upset," he said.

Baze added that prosecutors have twisted his wife's testimony to back up their case. Since his trial, Baze has tried to file multiple criminal and bar complaints against prosecutors and judges. Over the years, his attorneys have declined to take up those cases.

Baze said he understands why: because he has had public defenders from the beginning.

"If we rock the boat, they are going to retaliate against us," Baze said. "The fear of losing funding for public defenders is very real."

Baze is one of several inmates who by law can choose between electrocution and lethal injection as a matter of execution.

"I won't make a choice between lethal injection and the chair," Baze said.

If Baze does not make a choice, the state will automatically choose lethal injection.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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