From the Daily Kansan.
By Erin Brown
The state budget crisis has forced Kansas legislators to re-evaluate state spending, leading some lawmakers to review the cost and effectiveness of the Kansas death penalty law.
The Kansas legislature is reviewing Senate Bills 208 and 375, both of which would abolish the death penalty in Kansas. Senate Bill 208 was introduced and debated last year, but no action was taken on the bill.
After three days of hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider Senate Bill 375 Friday, Sen. Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence), said.
“The major concern that brought this topic up again was looking at the cost,” Francisco said. “Obviously we are in a tight budget situation.”
A death penalty prosecution can cost as much as a million dollars, she said, while a life sentence without parole could save taxpayers half a million dollars or more for each case.
According to Senate Bill 208, the median cost of a non-death-penalty murder case was approximately 70 percent less than the median cost of a death sentence.
Kansas re-enacted the death penalty in 1994, but has not carried out an execution since 1965, according to Senate Bill 375.
According to the National Center for State Courts’ website, Kansas has 10 inmates on death row. As the bill now stands, the abolishment of the death penalty, if passed, would not take effect until July 1, 2010.
Although Francisco is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, she said that she was glad the committee had decided to review the death penalty, and that she hoped to debate a bill in the full senate.
“I think senators feel this is a good time to engage again in this discussion and debate,” she said.
George Dungan, a senior from Lincoln, Neb. and vice-president of KU Young Democrats, said he was glad legislators had decided to debate the death penalty, especially during a time of economic instability for the state.
“In a time when Kansas is struggling to make ends meet, it seems absurd to continue an ineffective and expensive program, such as the death penalty,” he said.
Eric Foss, a senior from Overland Park and president of KU College Republicans, said his support for the death penalty hinged on the effectiveness of a state’s appeals process.
“For me, it’s not an argument of whether it is a more effective punishment,” he said. “We need to make sure we aren’t executing innocent people. That’s my primary concern.”
Foss said he thought it was possible the death penalty would end in Kansas.
“I think now, more than ever, because of budget constraints it is pretty likely that the decision to outlaw the death penalty may be made,” he said.
Kansas is one of 35 states with the death penalty, according to the National Center for State Courts. Fifteen states have abolished the death penalty, the most recent being New Mexico, which outlawed the death penalty last year.