A bill to abolish the death penalty in Kansas was introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives on Friday, February 11, 2011. The bill, HB 2323, was sponsored by the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. HB 2323 will replace the Kansas death penalty with life in prison without parole as the sentence for the crime of aggravated murder.
“This legislation will enable Kansas law enforcement officials to use the existing sentence of life without parole to hold offenders accountable for their crimes and protect the public safety without the unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person,” said Donna Schneweis, the Board Chair of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
In Kansas capital cases to date, there have been well-documented errors, including judicial error, jury misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, withheld evidence, jury instruction issues, and ineffective assistance of counsel. The Kansas Supreme Court has vacated three death sentences due to such errors. “States across the country are recognizing the flaws of the death penalty. This legislation is the next step to ending this broken, inconsistent policy in Kansas,” said Schneweis.
“The death penalty is rife with problems beyond those in the courtroom,” said Carolyn Zimmerman of Topeka, whose father was murdered in January 1969. “The death penalty continues to impact the victims’ families long after a crime has occurred. A capital trial only prolongs a family’s pain and trauma, and rarely brings the closure families long for,” said Zimmerman.
Last year, the Kansas Senate nearly voted to abolish the death penalty. The legislation failed on a 20-20 vote.