Kansas Senate panel endorses measure to repeal state death penalty

Started by Michael, March 02, 2009, 07:46:34 AM

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March 02, 2009, 07:46:34 AM Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 07:23:00 PM by Heidi
It was a gruesome crime: A 19-year-old college student, abducted, then raped and tortured, before her killer strangled her and dumped her body in a field.

It took a Kansas jury earlier this month only four hours to decide Jodi Sanderholm's attacker, Justin Thurber, deserved the ultimate penalty of death.

For Sanderholm's family, the death sentence was deserved.

"This is a great deterrent to anyone who thinks about doing a crime like this," her father, Brian, said after the sentencing.

But in the future, killers like Thurber could get a reprieve because of the nation's economic crisis. Kansas lawmakers now are weighing whether it's just too expensive to put people to death.

The average death penalty case costs the state of Kansas $1.26 million, compared to $740,000 for life in prison.

The Kansas judiciary committee this week spent two days debating whether the state should abolish the death penalty to save money--and instead send people like Thurber to prison for life.

"We are spending millions of dollars on a policy, though it sounds good and feels good, is costing us money that we do not have," said Democratic Sen. David Haley, testifying in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The bill has bipartisan support. It was introduced by Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn, who says the ecomoics of capital punishment no longer make sense in a state like Kansas.

"We are in a very difficult deficit situation," McGinn said in an interview earlier this week. "We have to look at every way we can to figure out where we can best use those dollars."

Kansas is not alone. With budget deficits skyrocketing, seven of the 36 states with the death penalty are now debating whether to abolish or limit it to ease their budget woes. Those states include Montana, New Mexico, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Utah.

The economic crunch has hit state legal systems hard, and many already have begun cutting legal services or raising court fees. Kentucky is providing early release for some prison inmates. Iowa is giving one-day furloughs for court employees. Minnesota has cut public defenders.

rest of the article http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Story?id=6981818&page=2
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Justice is not about bringing back the dead. It is not about revenge either. Justice is about enforcing consequences for one's own actions to endorse personal responsibility. We cannot expect anyone to take responsibility for their own actions if these consequences are not enforced in full.


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A bill repealing Kansas' death penalty law
fails to advance in the state Senate.

Senators sent the measure back to a committee Monday following
three hours of debate.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park
Republican, says the move probably ends the debate for the year.

Opponents of capital punishment made the costs of death penalty
cases a big issue this year as Kansas faces budget problems.

But supporters of the existing law questioned whether a repeal
would really save money. The bill was also criticized as having
serious flaws.

The Kansas bill would have eliminated death sentences after July
1. But it would have allowed 10 men already sentenced to face
lethal injection.


heidi salazar

Lawmakers plan to discuss death penalty

Topeka -- A proposal to abolish the Kansas death penalty will be considered by lawmakers during the second week of the 2010 legislative session, a legislator said Wednesday.

State Sen. Thomas "Tim" Owens, R-Overland Park, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said hearings on the proposal would start Jan. 19.

"We are going to have a complete and thorough discussion of death penalty abolition," Owens said.

Efforts to repeal the death penalty failed in the Senate during the last legislative session. Some opposed the repeal while others said they were concerned that the way the legislation was written, it would have also done away with the life-without-parole sentence for murder.

Kansas has not executed anyone since 1965



Another state in the State of Confusion.
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat


heidi salazar

Legislature to consider end to death penalty

Kansas will consider abolishing the death penalty next year as death sentences are declining across the United States.

Fewer people were sentenced to death this year than any other year since 1976, according to a report released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The report cites 106 new death sentences handed down in 2009, compared to 111 in 2008. Both are down significantly from a decade ago, when 284 death sentences were given out.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, has scheduled four days of hearings beginning Jan. 19 on a new bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Kansas.

A Kansas Judicial Council advisory committee of lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers helped rewrite a bill sponsored last year by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

But Kansas' top prosecutor said this week he wants to see the death penalty continue.

"I think it's a just punishment for what those folks did," Attorney General Steve Six told The Eagle.

Cost a factor

More people were put to death nationwide this year (52) than last year (37), Friday's report said.

The report attributed the increase to four months in 2008 when states halted executions while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a challenge to lethal injection. The high court found the method was not cruel and unusual punishment, allowing executions to continue.

The push against the death penalty, however, moved from the courthouse to the statehouse.

This year, 11 states considered bills to abolish the death penalty. New Mexico became the 15th state to repeal it, following an effort by a coalition of churches.

The high cost of the death penalty is often cited as the reason for dwindling support by lawmakers faced with tightening state budgets.

It costs more to prosecute someone for capital murder and seek the death penalty than it does for murders resulting in life imprisonment, studies show.

"High expenses with no measurable benefits were frequently cited in legislative debates about the death penalty," said Friday's report by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The center does not specify an opinion about the death penalty but has been called anti-capital punishment.

Kansas costs

In Kansas, seeking the death penalty costs four times more in legal fees than not pursuing it, according to a report released earlier this month. Figures were compiled by the state's indigent defense fund.

Imprisoning an inmate facing a death sentence also costs more, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections. It takes an additional $1,000 a year to keep an inmate in the isolation cell blocks required for death penalty inmates rather than in the general prison population.

Those figures were part of a report from the Judicial Council's Death Penalty Advisory Committee, which rewrote the bill to abolish the state's death penalty. The Judicial Council analyzes legal issues for the state Legislature and Supreme Court.

Two Wichita-area cases demonstrate the discrepancy.

Romaine Douglas was convicted of killing two people in 1999. He received a life prison sentence with no chance of parole for 100 years.

Gavin Scott was convicted of killing two people in 1996. He received a death sentence, which was overturned on appeal. He is set to face another capital punishment sentencing before a jury in April.

Neither one was the most expensive -- or least expensive -- case of its kind, according to the Judicial Council report.

If Douglas lives to be 79 -- the average life expectancy for an American male -- the state will have spent about $243,884 to convict him, deal with appeals and keep him in prison.

So far, the state has spent $750,074 to pursue the death penalty against Scott.

Learning curve debate

Six, the state's attorney general, said it's not fair to put a price on these crimes.

"You're talking about three or four cases a year, so cost should not be a deciding factor," Six said.

Kansas has 10 people on death row and hasn't executed anyone since 1965.

So far, three death penalty cases have been decided by the Kansas Supreme Court. All have been reversed because of legal errors by judges, lawyers or juries.

Six said costs will decrease in the future because decided case law makes the trials more efficient.

"We're learning from our mistakes," Six said.

That hasn't happened in other states, said Ron Evans, head of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit.

Evans has tried capital cases in Oklahoma and Kansas. He pointed to states such as Florida, which has had the death penalty since 1972. It has executed 68 people since 1979 and has 403 people on death row.

Friday's report estimates Florida spends $51 million a year on the death penalty at a cost of $24 million for each execution.

"In no state has it proven to be cheaper the longer you have it," Evans said. "It doesn't matter whether it's your fifth, 15th or 50th case. The death penalty is still more expensive."


heidi salazar

Lawmakers To Review Kansas Death Penalty

January 11, 2010

A proposal to repeal Kansas' death penalty law will be reviewed by a Senate committee next week.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Owens said he's scheduled for
days of hearings, starting Jan. 19.

Kansas enacted its law in 1994, making death by lethal injection
the possible penalty for some murders. But the state has yet to
execute anyone under it.

Capital punishment opponents pushed for the law's repeal last
year, and a bill they introduced last year to prevent new death
sentences is still before the committee.

Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said he's scheduled four
days of hearings so that all issues surrounding the death penalty
are examined thoroughly.




Posted on Fri, Jan. 22, 2010

Victims' families argue to keep death penalty

The Wichita Eagle

TOPEKA - The state's death penalty should be retained as justice for victims of killers like the Carr brothers and Justin Thurber, lawmakers heard Thursday.

"You cannot put a price tag on my sister's life," Jennifer Sanderholm told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "That is ultimately what you will do if you abolish the death penalty."

Thurber raped, sodomized and murdered 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm of Arkansas City in January 2007. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection a little more than two years later.

Thurber feared the death penalty and tried to plea bargain to take capital punishment off the table the night before his trial, Jennifer Sanderholm told the lawmakers, her voice racked with emotion.

"He was scared, and he didn't want to die," she said, flanked by her mother, Cindy, and father, Brian, who also testified.

Supporters of the death penalty said it is used sparingly -- only for the most egregious crimes --and shouldn't be weighed in terms of cost.

"By repealing the death penalty in Kansas, you will be placing the lives of others in jeopardy," said Lois Muller, mother of Heather Muller.

"Heather was murdered by Jonathan and Reginald Carr Dec. 15, 2000," said Muller. "Words can't begin to put an understanding to the impact that sentence has had on our lives."

The father of Brad Heyka, Larry Heyka, also testified. And Amy Scott, who had dated Heyka, testified Wednesday.

Muller, Heyka and two others were raped and murdered by the Carr brothers in Wichita.

Two bills would repeal

Lawmakers are considering two bills to repeal the death penalty. The committee wrapped up three days of testimony Thursday on two proposals.

Senate Bill 375 would eliminate the death penalty for crimes committed on or after July 1 and create the crime of aggravated murder, which would come with an automatic sentence of life without parole.

It would not affect the 10 people now on death row.

Senate Bill 208, which was debated last year but sent back to committee, would eliminate the death sentence after July 1, 2009. It has drawn questions about what would happen if one of the current death penalty cases were re-sentenced.

Those who back a repeal of the death penalty have told lawmakers it is too costly, not a deterrent to criminals and could end the lives of innocent people.

"After a while, increases in the severity don't contribute to the deterrent effect of the penalty," University of Colorado sociology professor Michael Radelet said Tuesday.

Money spent on death penalty cases would deter more crime if it were used to catch criminals and solve crimes, he said.

A 2003 state audit showed that costs in death penalty cases averaged $1.2 million, compared with $740,000 for other murder cases.

In testimony Wednesday, Sam Millsap, a former district attorney from San Antonio said he worried that the country's justice system is not equipped to decide who lives and who dies.

He has prosecuted cases that led to executions, but in 2005, a newspaper investigation indicated his prosecution of Ruben Cantu may have resulted in the execution of an innocent man, he said.

"Because our criminal justice system, on its best day, is driven by decisions that are made by imperfect human beings who make mistakes, there is compelling evidence that our criminal justice system is simply not competent to decide who may live and who must die," he said.

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, but the state has not executed anyone since 1965.

Essentially, the state has what amounts to a very expensive life-without-parole system, Millsap said. Suggestion: Speed up the execution process

Brian Sanderholm noted the same long delay between conviction and execution, and suggested that one way to reduce the cost of death penalty cases would be to shorten the process.

"If these monsters were made to fear a swiftly executed death sentence, then maybe the state would have saved all the money it spent locating my daughter's body and prosecuting her killer," he said. "But most importantly, maybe we would still have Jodi."

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman argued that the death penalty is used sparingly in Kansas.

"The worst of the worst deserve the death penalty. Not every homicide deserves the death penalty, but the worst of the worst," he said.

Chairman Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said his committee would work on the bills Jan. 29.

"This is a horrible tough situation, you have to decide . . . we are talking about life and death," said Kyle Smith, representing the Kansas Peace Officers' Association.

"There are some brutal, twisted people out there that need to meet their maker and let them work it out," Smith said. "In those cases, the sooner we can arrange that meeting, I think the better this world would be."


heidi salazar

Kansas Senate panel endorses measure to repeal state death penalty

By The Associated Press

Topeka -- A Senate panel has endorsed a bill to repeal the Kansas death penalty, saying it's a debate that legislators must conduct.

The 7-to-4 vote Friday by the Judiciary Committee would repeal the 1994 law and replace it with a new crime of aggravated murder, punishable by life in prison without parole.

Debate by the full Senate is expected in early February. The action comes 103 years after Gov. Edward Hoch signed a law repealing Kansas death penalty because it was seldom used.

The bill would not apply to the 10 men currently under death sentences in Kansas, but would not allow any more defendants to be charged with capital murder after July 1.

Senators amended the bill to remove the governor's power to commute a death or life without parole sentence.


heidi salazar

Measure to repeal state's death penalty on hold

TOPEKA -- The debate over Kansas' death penalty appears to be near death.

A measure to repeal capital punishment in the Sunflower State emerged from a Senate committee last month, but there are no plans for the full Senate to debate or vote on it, according to Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican.

Schmidt said no decision had been made on whether to hold the debate.

"The governor has stated publicly that he has little interest in signing a bill (repealing the death penalty)," Schmidt said. "And there's little interest in the House."

Still, he said, many in the Senate want to have the debate. "We're weighing all the options," he said.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka doubts it will happen. He suspects Senate leaders may have political reasons for blocking it.

"We shouldn't hide behind the politics," Hensley said


heidi salazar

Senate majority leader still hasn't scheduled debate on repeal of death penalty

Topeka -- A bill repealing Kansas' death penalty law remains stalled in the Senate.

Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said Tuesday that he's still considering whether to schedule a debate in the Senate on the bill, which emerged from committee last month

That's frustrating supporters of the bill. No one has been executed under the 1994 capital punishment law, though 10 men are serving death sentences.

The bill would substitute life in prison without parole for the death penalty for a few types of killings. The change would not apply to inmates already under the death sentence.

Schmidt, an Independence Republican, opposes the bill and thinks it stands little chance of passing the House. He questions whether families of murder victims should have to go through a debate.


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