Death penalty opponents introduce bill to abolish executions based on cost

? Death penalty opponents in Kansas have criticized capital punishment, saying it is unfair and pointing to instances around the country where innocent people were wrongly sentenced to death.

On Thursday, they took a different strategy as legislation was introduced to abolish the Kansas death penalty. They said that given the current budget problems, the death penalty was too expensive and unnecessary because Kansas law has an alternative — life in prison without parole.

“I know this session everyone is scrambling to find resources to fund things that the state needs, and now that we have life in prison without parole, the question is what does the death penalty get us that life without parole doesn’t,” said Donna Schneweis with Amnesty International and the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

State lawmakers are looking for ways to bridge a nearly $200 million budget shortfall.

There have been no executions in Kansas since the state re-established the death penalty in 1994. There are 10 men awaiting the death sentence in Kansas.

In a 2003 state audit report that looked at 22 first-degree murder cases, the median cost for cases in which the death penalty was imposed was $1.2 million, compared with $740,000 for the median non-death penalty cases reviewed. The calculations included the cost of long-term incarceration.

The report said numerous factors made death penalty cases cost more, such as lengthier court trials and appeals, and hiring more experts.

Senate Bill 208 would abolish the death penalty, but it would not apply to those already sentenced to death.

State Sen. Caroline McGinn, R-Sedgwick, introduced the bill, saying, “We need to be thinking outside the box,” when it comes to saving money.

McGinn said the death penalty hasn’t proven to be a deterrent to crime, and there is always the risk that an innocent person could be executed.

Since 1973, 130 persons sentenced to death in 26 states have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.