The Kansas capital punishment law was narrowly passed in 1994. The law provides the option of the death penalty in cases of intentional, premeditated murder when one of these factors is also present:
- kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping for ransom;
- contract murder;
- murder of any person by an inmate in a correctional facility;
- murder of a victim of rape, criminal sodomy, or aggravated criminal sodomy in the attempt to commit, commission of, or subsequent to the crime;
- murder of a law enforcement officer;
- murders of more than one person during the same act or in two or more acts connected as part of a common scheme;
- murder of a child under the age of 14 in the commission of kidnapping or when the kidnapping is done with the intent to commit an unlawful sex offense upon or with the child, or with the intent that the child commit or submit to a sex offense.
The law prohibits the sentence of death for people who were under 18 at the time of the crime or who are mentally retarded.
There are two phases to the prosecution, one to determine guilt or innocence, and one to decide on the penalty, in which mitigating or aggravating circumstances may be argued.
Upon conviction, the case is automatically reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court.
How would the sentence be carried out?
The death sentence would be carried out by lethal injection. The 1999 Legislature worked out some details of implementation. Because involvement in executions is considered an ethics violation by the medical and nursing professional associations, Kansas may use former military medics or paramedics. Death row prisoners are typically held at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Those prisoners are all male; any women sentenced to death would be held at the Topeka Correctional Facility under the current plan.
Prisoners would be transferred to Lansing shortly before the execution date, in order to protect corrections personnel from the trauma of carrying out the execution of someone they’ve come to know over a number of years.
What is the alternative? Individuals convicted of capital murder who do not receive the death penalty are sentenced to long term incarceration according to the law at the time of their crime. For the initial capital cases, the alternative was the hard 40, that is forty years in prison before parole is even considered. Cases from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2004 which were not given the death penalty had the Hard 50. Since July 1, 2004 the alternative to the death penalty has been life in prison without parole.