A bipartisan group of Kansas legislators attempting to repeal the state’s death penalty say they’re building support among rank-and-file lawmakers but having trouble overcoming opposition from legislative leaders.
The legislators sponsoring the repeal bill say the death penalty is ineffective, wasteful and unjust.
Rep. Steven Becker, a Republican from Buhler and a former district court judge, said he knows firsthand that the judicial system makes mistakes. Since the early 1970s, he said, 156 people convicted of capital crimes were later found innocent and released from death row.
“We gave death sentences to innocent people because we have an imperfect system because we don’t require absolute certainty of guilt,” he said.
Several lawmakers in the bipartisan group spoke Thursday at a Statehouse rally that also featured Floyd Bledsoe, a Kansas man who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Freed in December with the help of DNA evidence, Bledsoe says he’s living proof that the justice system makes mistakes.
And, he said, the state can’t afford mistakes in death penalty cases.
“We have to stop the death penalty today. Tomorrow might be too late for one person,” Bledsoe said. “Think about it. Think about it, what is one life worth?”
Becker said he thinks death penalty opponents have the votes to pass the repeal bill in the House. But he said the Republican leaders who control the calendar are trying to keep the bill from coming to a vote.