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Kevin Miguel STANFORD





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery - Juvenile (17)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 7, 1981
Date of birth: August 23, 1963
Victim profile: Baerbel Poore, 20 (service station attendant)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1982. On December 8, 2003, Outgoing Governor Paul Patton commuted the sentence life in prison

Supreme Court of the United States


Stanford v. Kentucky (No. 87-5765)
No. 87-5765, 734 S.W.2d 781, affirmed; No. 87-6026, 736 S.W.2d 409, affirmed.







In 1981, this 17 year old killer robbed a Checker gasoline station during the evening in southwestern  Jefferson County, stealing cigarettes, two gallons of fuel and a small amount of cash. 

During and after the commission of the robbery, this killer took the attendant, a young mother of an infant child, and repeatedly raped and sodomized her on the restroom floor of the gas station. 

Following the robbery and assault, the victim was taken from the station and driven a short distance to an isolated area where she was shot twice, once in the face and once in the back of the head. 

This killer laughed and boasted about his horrible treatment of the innocent murder victim to an accomplice, the getaway driver, other inmates, and to correction officers.


Sentence commuted to life in prison

Case Overview

Case Summary

Kevin Stanford, an African American, was 17 years of age at the time of his arrest for the January 7, 1981 murder, robbery, sodomy and theft of Baerbel Poore, a twenty-year old service station attendant.

Because Kevin was a juvenile - under 18 years of age at the time of his crime - his execution would be contrary to American standards of justice, fairness, and decency as well as international law. In opposing his execution, we do not, in any way, seek either to excuse the crime or to minimize the pain and suffering it caused the family and friends of the victim.

The Trial

Kevin Stanford received incoherent and weak representation at both the guilt/innocence and sentencing phases of the trial. At the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, no attempt was made to either challenge prejudicial testimony, which accused Stanford of bragging about the killing, or to pursue evidence of two eyewitnesses that had positively identified someone else, who had recently been released from prison, as being at the murder scene. Kevin Stanford was easily convicted of murder.

Owing to the fact that Kevin's attorneys had done little investigation, there was minimal mitigating evidence presented at Kevin's sentencing phase, the last opportunity the attorneys had to save his life. No in depth social history investigation was carried out, a fundamental responsibility as a trial attorney.

Owing to this consequential error, the jury never heard an accurate portrayal of the life of Kevin Stanford. If Kevin's attorneys had conducted even the most cursory mitigation investigation, they would have located numerous witnesses who would have testified about the severe neglect and abuse that shaped Kevin's life.

Kevin Suffered a Brutal Childhood Filled With Sexual, Physical and Mental Abuse

Kevin Stanford was born in Louisville, Kentucky on August 23, 1963. He grew up  without knowing his father. Kevin's mother frequented a local motorcycle club, and Kevin was exposed to the neglect, maltreatment, and violence of her lifestyle at a very young age. His mother and other motorcycle members used cocaine and speed freely in front of Kevin; the members gave Kevin his first shot of whiskey at age five.

Kevin's mother never took responsibility for, or care of, Kevin, shuffling him from relative to relative. He was beaten in most of these homes. In fact, when Kevin lived with his aunt he was so severely beaten with long extension cords that today he still bears the scars.

Kevin received such poor supervision that, when he was three or four, he and his young cousins inadvertently set his aunt's house on fire as they were trying to cook themselves a meal. Kevin grew up without normal access to the basics of life - food, medicine and adult-supervision. Indeed, at four years old, Kevin understood he had to barter in order to survive; he would go to restaurants and work for food so he could eat that day. 

Most disturbing were the frequent sexual assaults. Kevin was first molested at the age of five by his babysitter. These assaults continued for many months. This molestation made Kevin a vulnerable target in his neighborhood; neighborhood boys would intimidate Kevin into performing oral sex on them and the neighborhood girls would also coerce Kevin into having sex.

Kevin was also a victim of abuse at the hands of his stepfather's nephew for over three years. So accustomed to the molestation, Kevin did not realize that he was being abused. To survive, he began to perform sexual acts in exchange for drugs, money and a place to stay. This survival tactic of exchanging sex continued up to the day of Kevin's arrest.

The Abuse Takes its Toll

With the onset of adolescence, Kevin began to use drugs and alcohol more frequently. At twelve Kevin was using alcohol and marijuana on a daily basis. When Kevin entered juvenile facilities he was introduced to LSD, hashish and amphetamines. At one juvenile facility he attempted suicide, but failed.

Over the years Kevin has had a range of IQ test scores; an IQ score between 90 and 100 is considered average, a score below 70 is indicative of mental retardation. Kevin's scores range from a high of 116 at age six, to a low of 70 at ages ten and fifteen, rising later to a 92 and a 94 at ages seventeen and twenty-nine respectively.

The two IQ scores of 70 strongly indicate that Kevin's intellectual and scholastic problems were a result of the trauma he had experienced from sexual and physical abuse, neglect and isolation, environmental deprivation and the constant disruptions and uncertainties of his family life. This was compounded by drug and alcohol abuse. It is imperative to recognize, however, that his attorney failed to adequately present and explain these findings and the possible causes for the varying test scores, thereby giving the jury a woefully inadequate and incomplete picture of who Kevin Stanford actually was.

Executing Juvenile Offenders is Contrary to International Law

The execution of child offenders is in contravention of international law and fundamental standards of human rights. The ultimate goal of the international community is to abolish the death penalty under all circumstances, however, until that time there are restrictions on the categories of persons who can be executed, juveniles being one of the restricted categories. The prohibition of the execution of juveniles is referenced in a number of international treaties, declarations, and statements by international bodies, in addition to the laws of the majority of nations.

Juvenile Offenders: Issues of Mitigation

By their very nature, teenagers are less mature, and therefore less culpable than adults. Adolescence is a transitional period of life when cognitive abilities, emotions, judgment, impulse control, and identity are still developing. The IJP offers overviews on brain development and trauma as possible mitigation factors for juvenile offenders.


Kevin Stanford is now 38 years of age. While incarcerated, Kevin has worked hard to educate himself. He and his wife Eileen have been married for six years. His daughter, Lakiesha, who was born within the month following his arrest, is almost 21 years old and a sophomore at Northern Kentucky University.

The all white jury, which sentenced Kevin Stanford, an African-American teenager, to death knew only a small part of the tragic life story. Now Kevin Stanford's best chance rests with the Kentucky Legislature, which is considering the issue of the juvenile death penalty. Kentucky Governor Paul Patton has announced that he will support a bill that will end the execution of juvenile offenders.

Case Timeline

A motion for a new trial and sentencing pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.42 was filed in the Jefferson Circuit Court in April 1990. Less than two months after it was filed, the court denied Kevin's motion without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed in Stanford v. Commonwealth, Ky., 854 S.W.2d 742 (1993). His petition for a writ of habeas corpus was then denied, without an evidentiary hearing, by the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in December 1999.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied his habeas appeal on September 20, 2001. Stanford v. Parker, 266 F.3d 442 (6th Cir. 2001). Rehearing en banc was denied on November 29, 2001.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert on October 7, 2002. Review on the juvenile death penalty issue, in the form of an original habeas, was denied on October 21, 2002, by the United States Supreme Court. Four justices (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer) dissented from the denial of review. Stanford has exhausted his appeals. Governor Paul Patton will now hear clemency appeals and then set an execution date.


KENTUCKY---Juvenile Offender to get Death Sentence Commuted

Patton says he plans to commute Stanford death sentence

Associated Press

Gov. Paul Patton said today he plans to commute the death sentence of a man convicted of a murder he committed at age 17.

Patton said he would not sign a death warrant for Kevin Stanford because of Stanford's age at the time of the crime.

"That is a case, in my opinion, where the justice system perpetuated an injustice," Patton said. "As you will note, I have not set an execution date for Mr. Stanford and he is certainly one of the people that I will correct an injustice for."

Patton revealed his plans for Stanford during an afternoon news conference in which he pardoned his chief of staff Andrew "Skipper" Martin and 3 others accused of breaking campaign finance laws in 1995.

Stanford, now 39, was convicted of murdering Baerbel Poore. After Stanford robbed and raped Poore, he shot her in the face and then in the side of her head.

Poore, 20, was a single parent working nights at a Louisville gas station to support an 11-month-old daughter. The January 1981 robbery netted $143 in cash, 300 cartons of cigarettes and 2 gallons of gasoline.

"I don't know what action that I will take on that case," Patton said. "But I will settle that case once and for all before I leave office."

The U.S. Supreme Court in October refused to consider banning executions of people like Stanford who committed the crimes as a juvenile.


High court denies Ky. Death Row appeal

By Shannon McCaffrey - The Lexington Herald Leader

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A sharply divided Supreme Court refused yesterday to consider abolishing the execution of juvenile killers. By a 5-4 margin, the court declined to hear the appeal of a Kentucky man who has been sentenced to death for abducting, sodomizing and killing a gas station attendant when he was 17.

Last term, the high court banned the death penalty for mentally retarded people, ruling it was "cruel and unusual punishment." Four of the more liberal justices said yesterday that the court's review should extend to those who commit capital crimes before they are 18.

Justice John Paul Stevens called the practice of putting juvenile offenders to death "shameful."

"The practice of executing such offenders is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society," he wrote in his dissent from the majority opinion.

In refusing to hear the appeal, the majority offered no comment.

Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined Stevens in his dissent.

Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer had said over the summer that they wanted the court to take up the issue of juvenile killers on death row. The case of Kevin Nigel Stanford, of Louisville, would have allowed them to do so.

Stanford, now 39, has been on Death Row since 1982. He was convicted of shooting a 20-year-old woman in the face and leaving her body kneeling in the back seat of her mother's Chevrolet Impala, jeans and underwear around her ankles.

In 1989, the Supreme Court used an appeal by Stanford to uphold juvenile executions. In the new appeal, Stanford's lawyers argued that his execution would be unconstitutional.

Margaret O'Donnell, Stanford's lawyer, said that like the mentally retarded, teen-agers were not as culpable as adults for crimes they committed. She cited research on brain development showing that adolescents are "less able to control their impulses and make reasoned judgments" than adults are.

In the mentally retarded case, the court relied on trends in the states. Thirty states had forbidden such executions.

In Stevens' dissent, the four high-court justices used the same reasoning. They noted that 28 state legislatures have barred capital punishment for juveniles, five of them after the Supreme Court's 1989 ruling allowing such executions.

"In the last 13 years, a national consensus has developed that juvenile offenders should not be executed," the dissent said.

Twelve states forbid the death penalty altogether.

O'Donnell said yesterday that her client had reached the end of his legal appeals. Without clemency from Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, he will be executed, she said.

Barbara Hadley Smith, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler, said a death warrant for Stanford would soon be submitted to Patton, asking him to set an execution date.

About 2 percent of America's Death Row inmates committed their crimes as juveniles. All told, there are 3,718 people on Death Row, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.

The United States is one of only a handful of countries that permit the execution of those younger than 18. Among the others are Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Separately yesterday, Breyer said the court should hear the case of Charles Foster, who is scheduled to be executed after spending 27 years on Death Row in Florida. The court was asked to consider whether leaving an inmate on Death Row for decades amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The long stay was caused in part by several procedural errors by the state.

Breyer wrote that if Foster, now 55, is executed, he "will have been punished both by death and also by more than a generation spent in Death Row's twilight."

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Foster could have ended his anxieties long ago "by submitting to what the people of Florida have deemed him to deserve: execution."

The court turned down Foster's appeal.

Also yesterday, the court refused to intervene in two disputes over public access to beaches in California. Two Santa Barbara County landowners claim the government unfairly seized their property. In one case, the county built a beach access path, and in the other, it claimed an easement the size of a football field.


Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court case that sanctioned the imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were at least 16 years of age at the time of the crime. This decision came one year after Thompson v. Oklahoma, in which the Court had held that a 15-year-old offender could not be executed because to do so would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In 2003, the Governor of Kentucky Paul Patton commuted the death sentence of Kevin Stanford, an action followed by the Supreme Court two years later in Roper v. Simmons overruling Stanford and holding that all juvenile offenders are exempt from the death penalty.


The case involved the shooting death of 20-year-old Barbel Poore in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Kevin Stanford committed the murder on January 7, 1981, when he was approximately 17 years and 4 months of age. Stanford and his accomplice repeatedly raped and sodomized Poore during and after their commission of a robbery at a gas station where she worked as an attendant. They then drove her to a secluded area near the station, where Stanford shot her pointblank in the face and then in the back of her head. The proceeds from the robbery were roughly 300 cartons of cigarettes, two gallons of fuel, and a small amount of cash.

After Stanford's arrest, a Kentucky juvenile court conducted hearings to determine whether he should be transferred for trial as an adult, and, stressing the seriousness of his offenses and his long history of past delinquency, found that certification for trial as an adult to be in the best interest of Standford and the community.

Stanford was convicted of murder, first-degree sodomy, first-degree robbery, and receiving stolen property, and was sentenced to death and 45 years in prison. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, rejecting Stanford's "deman[d] that he has a constitutional right to treatment." Finding that the record clearly demonstrated that "there was no program or treatment appropriate for the appellant in the juvenile justice system," the court held that the juvenile court did not err in certifying Stanford for trial as an adult. The court also stated that Stanford's "age and the possibility that he might be rehabilitated were mitigating factors appropriately left to the consideration of the jury that tried him."

Oral Arguments Before the United States Supreme Court

Oral arguments were heard 26 March 1989. Prior to the hearing, briefs of amici curiae pushing for reversal were filed by the American Baptist Churches, the Child Welfare League of America, and the West Virginia Council of Churches. Briefs supporting the affirmation of the capital sentence were filed by the Attorney General of Kentucky, and a number of attorneys general from other states.

In both cases, briefs of amici curiae were put forth by the American Bar Association, the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, the International Human Rights Group, and Amnesty International.

Arguments in the defense of petitioners Stanford and Wilkins (see below) were that the application of capital punishment upon defendants who were minors at the time of the offense was unconstitutional because it violated the prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Opinion of the Supreme Court

In both Stanford v. Kentucky, and the parallel case Wilkins v. Missouri, the Supreme Court affirmed the capital punishments handed down in lower courts. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that neither Stanford or Wilkins asserted that the punishment was cruel or unusual at the time the Bill of Rights was adopted (common law at the time set the incapacity to commit a felony at age 14), and so both petitioners were left to argue that capital punishment for minors older than 14, was contrary to "the evolving standards of decency". This expanse in the review of the Eighth Amendment was not granted in this decision, and Scalia went on to cite precedent limits set in Gregg v. Georgia (1976).

"We discern neither a historical nor a modern societal consensus forbidding the imposition of capital punishment on any person who murders at 16 or 17 years of age. Accordingly, we conclude that such punishment does not offend the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, although agreeing that no national consensus forbade the imposition of capital punishment on 16- or 17-year-old murderers, concluded that the court has a constitutional obligation to conduct proportionality analysis, (citing Penry v. Lynaugh) and should consider age-based statutory classifications that are relevant to that analysis.

Justice Brennan filed a dissenting opinion, in which he was joined by Justices Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens.


Kevin Miguel Stanford



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