Topeka An attempt to abolish Kansas’ death penalty is back on track, giving capital punishment opponents another, unexpected chance to argue that it’s too expensive when the state faces budget problems.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 on Thursday to forward the bill to the chamber. That decision came only a day after the committee voted to have the bill studied further this summer, which would have ended this year’s debate.
Death penalty opponents have made the costs of capital punishment their main argument this year because of the state’s recession-related financial problems. Opponents claim there wouldn’t be any real savings in repealing it.
Kansas is among 10 states with legislation to repeal the death penalty to save money, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. New Mexico and Montana have made the most progress, with one legislative chamber in each state approving the repeal.
“The economy is still in crisis, so it is certainly a relevant issue for all states,” said Richard Dieter, the center’s executive director.
A 2003 state audit showed that costs in death penalty cases averaged $1.2 million, compared with $740,000 for other murder cases. But Attorney General Steve Six has called the analysis flawed.
Megan Heyka DiGiovanni, of Topeka, said the events surrounding the bill left her “in disbelief.” Her brother, Brad Heyka, was among four people kidnapped and shot execution style on a soccer field in 2000 by brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, on death row since 2002. A fifth person survived.
“It’s not a matter of costs,” she said. “It still goes back to what it was, a moral issue. To say all death penalty cases cost more isn’t a fact.”
The bill calls for an end to death sentences after July 1. But it would allow for inmates who already had been sentenced to be put to death, including the Carr brothers and eight other people already on Kansas’ death row. The current death penalty law was enacted in 1994, but nobody has been executed under it.