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Law Library

Legal History of Murder: Kentucky

Research guide for the legal history of murder

The law library has significant resources for studying Kentucky criminal law, including current and historic statutes, Kentucky legal treatises going back to the 19th century, and legislative documents leading to the adoption of the Kentucky penal code in 1974.


Old Statutes in Westlaw & Lexis

Historic Kentucky statues are available in Westlaw from 1995- and Lexis from 1991-.

In Westlaw the Kentucky Statutes & Court Rules are available under the State Materials tab - Kentucky. You can then search for the whole code by selecting 'Kentucky Statutes Annotated - Historical' under Tools & Resources. Then simply select a year from the list and search for the Statute.

Kentucky Statutes on Westlaw

In Lexis you must search for a specific section. First, find the current Kentucky Revised Statutes section and select 'Archived code versions', which will provide all the versions since 1991.

Kentucky Statutes on Lexis

Shot his father
See the Kentucky collection in the Murder by Gaslight blog.


Secondary Sources for the Legal History of Kentucky Criminal Law

Kentucky treatises are very helpful in determining the law at a point in time:

  • James M. Roberson, Kentucky Criminal Law and Procedure (1899)
  • R.S. Rose, Kentucky Criminal Law Procedure and Forms (1916)
  • William S. Haynes, Kentucky Jurisprudence: Criminal Law (1986)
  • Robert G. Lawson, William H. Fortune, Kentucky Criminal Law (1998)
  • Leslie W. Abramson, Kentucky Practice: Substantive Criminal Law & Criminal Practice / Procedure (current)

Legislative documents mark important changes:

  • Homicide Law in Kentucky (Frankfort, Ky: Legislative Research Commission, 1961)
  • Kentucky Penal Code: As Enacted by the 1974 General Assembly and Codified by the Legislative Research Commission (1974)

Kentucky jury instructions are extremely useful in determining the law for various fact patterns:

  • John P. Hobson, Instructions to Juries: Being a Treatise on Kentucky ... (1914)
  • Osso W. Stanley, Instructions to Juries in Kentucky (1940-1957)
  • John S. Palmore, Instructions to Juries in Kentucky (1975-present)

Articles from state law and bar reviews go into some detail on aspect of state criminal law: