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Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Death penalty opponents urge moratorium

January 21, 2004

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— Death penalty opponents today urged Kansas lawmakers to impose a two-year moratorium on capital punishment.

"Human life is a gift from God," Mike Farmer, a former legislator and executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chairman John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said the committee would probably work on the bill later in the legislative session.

He said he was undecided about whether he supported the measure. He said he was concerned that the bill would also impose a two-year moratorium on imposition of the death penalty in pending criminal cases.

Kansas reinstituted the death penalty in 1994. Seven people have been sentenced to die but none have been executed. Recently, some lawmakers have been shocked by the millions of dollars spent on litigating death penalty cases.

Bill Lucero of Topeka, whose father was murdered in 1972, told the committee that the long legal process leading to an execution actually prolongs the trauma for victims' families.

"The death penalty is not the answer," he said.

Lawmakers also are considering proposed changes to the death penalty law in how it considers defendants who say they are mentally retarded.

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