Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Members Press for Repeal of Kansas Death Penalty

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Members Press for Repeal of Kansas Death Penalty

Article excerpt

A bipartisan group of state representatives advocated Thursday for repeal of the Kansas death penalty as a step toward alleviating a steep financial obligation weighing on a state government struggling to deal with a projected deficit.

Reps. Steven Becker, R-Hutchinson, John Bradford, R-Lansing, and Dennis "Boog" Highberger, D-Lawrence, expressed support for repeal of the state's capital punishment statute during a news conference at the Capitol organized by the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Becker said many aspects of the death penalty warranted scrutiny and debate, but Kansans could focus on financial benefit of dropping from the criminal code the option of executing inmates convicted of murder. Murder trials in district court and years of appeals guaranteed to result from death sentences are costly.

"The death penalty is such an inefficient practice in our state that could truly save millions of dollars," Becker said. "Yesterday, we had about a five-hour debate on the floor on our state budget and this morning we received a Supreme Court opinion that I think requires us to come up with about $54 million more for public education in the state. We are desperate for money and one of the sources we could find would be the repeal of the death penalty."

Becker said proponents of repeal speak of moral objections or criminal justice issues, yet the state should no longer ignore economic incentives of reform. The state's current budget deficit could reach nearly $200 million through mid-2017.

"The cost savings is such an issue in our fiscal, our financial environment in the Statehouse that it has risen to the top, I think, as to the strongest argument," Becker said.

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, but hasn't performed an execution in more than 50 years. …

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