Topeka — Death penalty opponents Tuesday introduced legislation that would do away with capital punishment in Kansas after a former death row inmate talked about how he was almost killed by a broken judicial system.
When Ray Krone was freed from an Arizona prison in 2002, he became the 100th defendant in the United States cleared of a crime that had brought a death sentence.
"Our justice system, I don't support it now," Krone, 50, said to a gathering of death penalty opponents.
Krone, who had no previous criminal record, was sentenced to die in the 1991 slaying of a cocktail waitress.
Krone said he was the victim of inadequate legal defense and an overzealous prosecutor and judge.
He spent 10 years in prison before being freed when DNA evidence was reviewed and found a match with another man.
Without the support of his family and a dedicated appellate attorney, Krone said he would have been executed or spent his life in prison.
The same thing could happen to anyone, he said.
"Mistakes happen," he said.
People see sports referees make wrong calls all the time, he said, but they refuse to believe that the justice system could condemn an innocent man.
Krone now works to get states to repeal their death penalty statutes.
Cecilia Wood, a private investigator from Lawrence, said Krone's story showed why the death penalty should be jettisoned.
"There are too many errors in the system," Wood said. "There are too many mistakes in law enforcement."
Measures to end the death penalty were filed on the 100th anniversary of the day in 1907 that Gov. Edward Wallis Hoch signed legislation abolishing the death penalty, which had been on the state's books since 1859 when Kansas was still a territory.
The death penalty was reinstated in 1935, repealed again in 1972 and finally reinstated in 1994.
Since the death penalty was last reinstated in Kansas, there have been 10 death sentences but no executions. One sentence was removed by the prosecutor's request and two have been vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court.