The experience of Kansas’ use of the death penalty these past seven years shows that we are no different than other states. Today’s court decision verifies what opponents of the death penalty have said in the past twenty plus years of death penalty debate in our state: Our criminal justice system makes mistakes.
The Coalition regrets that the Court did not find the entire law unconstitutional. The Court’s decision places upon the Legislature the burden of revisiting the death penalty with regard to at least one section of the law.
As the Legislature prepares to revisit the law, we believe it must look beyond that one section to the following fundamental facts:
1) Sufficient alternatives exist to protect public safety. Courts have the option for long term incarceration that would keep the public safe. The hard 50 gives juries and judges the option they need for dealing with capital murderers. Only after fifty years will the question of parole even be considered. For most murderers, this will be equivalent to spending the rest of their life behind bars.
2) There is a growing body of fiscal evidence that the death penalty is a huge drain on state resources. Any resources wasted in death penalty cases are not available for crime prevention or other life-enhancing programs. Such a prevention focus holds the potential of sparing other families what Carrie Williams’ family has gone through. Kansas has spent many dollars these past seven years and we have a flawed death penalty system to show for it.
3) There is a growing understanding in many of the major faith traditions, that the death penalty is not an appropriate response to crime. In addition, there is an evolving practice among the nations of the world to also choose punishments other than death.
4) Executions continue the cycle of violence and foster revenge and retaliation. We have a choice whether we continue to kill as the murderer has done, or whether we witness to a higher standard of behavior. As people of good will who value life, let us not create another grieving family.
More and more Kansans are recognizing these fundamental facts and saying “Not in MY Name!” We believe the time is now for a fundamental examination of Kansas’ death penalty. We call upon the Legislature to go beyond simple technical considerations and really look at whether the death penalty makes sense in 2001 and the years to come.