* In her annual report on the activities of the Kansas Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kay McFarland said: “The Court also faces hearing three more death penalty appeals, which will severely strain our limited resources. So far only one such appeal has come through our Court since the reinstatement of the death penalty. This was State v. Kleypas, 272 Kan. 894, 40 P.3rd 139 (2001). This case was orally argued on December 6, 2000. Prior to that, our limited research staff had spent months doing research on the issues presented taking time away from their regular work. Even with this advance preparation, a great deal more work was required. Thousands of pages of transcripts and other documents from the record were before us for review. The Kleypas opinion was filed on December 28, 2001, over a year after the case was argued before us. I have been on the Court since 1977, and no other case is even a close second to the amount of time spent on that one case. Now the Court is faced with three more death penalty appeals within the next few months. We have no record of how much time was spent on the Kleypas case by the Court, research staff, and clerical staff. Some indications of the increased complexity of such cases are the following figures from the Board of Indigent Defense Services (BIDS). The average non-death penalty case costs BIDS between $10,000 and $12,000. The last two death penalty cases cost BIDS over $1 million each.
* Damien C. Lewis will be tried for the July 10 slayings of an elderly couple in their Lawrence home. As residents of Douglas County face a $1.7 million budget deficit that has already forced Commissioners to support $1.5 million in budget cuts, local leaders are questioning the wisdom of financing a capital trial that could cost as much as $2 million. Commissioner Charles Jones said that focusing the county’s resources on a single case will shortchange other criminal proceedings and law enforcement efforts. “That extra measure of justice or vengeance — however you want to call it — is not worth all the sacrifices you’ll have to make,” Jones said. Commissioner Bob Johnson echoed concerns voiced by Jones, noting that county reserves can be used to cover the trial’s high price tag, but that future decisions about seeking the death penalty could be ruled by dollars and cents. “We will provide the money we can,” Johnson said. “And then, clearly, when it becomes a case where they don’t have enough money to prosecute all cases, somebody’s going to have to decide: Can we afford to do this? That’s a tough issue.”
[Note: On March 14, 2003, Lewis entered a guilty plea to this and several other crimes. The prosecution agreed not to seek the death penalty in the case. Sentencing will take place in June 2003.]