Topeka A bill giving juries the option of sentencing someone to life in prison without parole is headed to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius after the Senate agreed Thursday to technical changes approved by the House.
The measure creates an alternative to the death penalty in capital cases. Currently, Kansas' harshest alternative to execution is the "Hard 50" -- life in prison without a chance for parole for 50 years.
First approved by the Senate last month, the bill won House passage last week with minor changes. The Senate voted 39-1 on Thursday to accept the changes.
Legislative auditors said in December the average cost of a death penalty case in Kansas is $1.2 million. An advisory group of judges and attorneys that studied the state's death penalty law last year concluded the life-without-parole option could save the state between $400,000 and $500,000 per trial.
Of the 38 states that have capital punishment, 35 have an alternative sentence of life without parole, auditors said. The exceptions are Kansas, New Mexico and Texas.
Seven people have been sentenced to death in Kansas since capital punishment was reinstated in 1994. The state's last executions, by hanging in 1965, occurred under a capital punishment law struck down as unconstitutional in 1973.