Archive for Monday, February 1, 2010

Opponents of state’s death penalty law mobilizing

February 1, 2010


Ben Coates on the death penalty

The following is an interview with Ben Coates, former director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, speaking at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence Sunday about the death penalty in Kansas.

As the Kansas Legislature gears up for a debate about ending the death penalty in the state, advocates from the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty are speaking out locally.

Ben Coates, KCADP member and former director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, addressed about 20 people Sunday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt. Coates cited a variety of reasons why he supports a Senate bill that would prohibit executions in Kansas.

“I think it’s purely wrong for the state to be in the business of taking human lives,” Coates said, citing his religious beliefs.

But Coates, who has taught sociology and criminal justice at Washburn University for more than 40 years, said there are also other reasons to abolish the death penalty.

As director of the sentencing commission, Coates worked on studies showing that the Kansas criminal justice system continues to hand out sentences based on factors, such as race and socio-economic status, that have nothing to do with the crime committed. He worries that’s led to unfair use of the death penalty across the state.

“This has the capacity of being arbitrary,” he said.

No one has been executed in Kansas since 1965, and the U.S. Supreme Court suspended state death penalties in 1972.

Since 1994, when Kansas reinstated its death penalty, 25 people have been tried in capital punishment cases. Twelve men have been sentenced to death, but plea agreements were reached during the appeals process in two cases, which resulted in lesser sentences.

There are now 10 convicted murderers facing the death penalty. The bill in the Senate, however, would not affect those already sentenced.

Coates also spoke about the possibility of executing an innocent person. “The state makes mistakes,” he said. If someone is executed, the state has “no opportunity to correct it.”

Chris Cook, coordinator for the KCADP, said the higher cost for death penalty cases, which she said is estimated at around $750,000 more than other murder cases, is another important factor, especially as the state budget faces a continuing shortfall.

“We’re in a $400 million hole ... . We would like to see those monies go to programs than help Kansans,” said Cook, who is currently raising awareness about the issue in advance of a potential vote in the Legislature on the bill.

On Friday, the Judiciary Committee sent the full bill to the Senate for debate. If passed, the bill would then need approval from Gov. Mark Parkinson, who advocated for the death penalty as a state legislator.


Frank Smith 8 years, 1 month ago

The main argument for the death penalty, coming from even those who are seeking vengeance but are loathe to admit that, is that it has a deterrent effect.

It has no such effect. Researchers have been trying to discover one for years and can't.

mom_of_three 8 years, 1 month ago

I am not sure of all twelve of the men on death row, but the ones I know about are GUILTY - no doubt - period. They should never see the light of day and the only way to guarantee that, for their families, is the death penalty. The carr brothers were convicted ages ago, and the wait is too long.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

No deterrent? Oh really? "HUNTSVILLE — As many as 60 people may be alive today in Texas because two dozen convicted killers were executed last year in the nation's most active capital punishment state, according to a study of death penalty deterrence by researchers from Sam Houston State University and Duke University. A review of executions and homicides in Texas by criminologist Raymond Teske at Sam Houston in Huntsville and Duke sociologists Kenneth Land and Hui Zheng concludes a monthly decline of between 0.5 to 2.5 homicides in Texas follows each execution.

“Evidence exists of modest, short-term reductions in the numbers of homicides in Texas in the month of or after executions,” the study published in a recent issue of Criminology, a journal of the American Society of Criminology, said.""

Read the rest at:

kansasredlegs 8 years, 1 month ago

Government makes mistakes? Never. People wrongly convicted? Never. Deathrow inmates ever released from death row? Never. (Not here anyway, Kansans never make mistakes) Prosecutors allow personal prejudices into their decision making? Never. Experts ever wrong? Never. Politics a factor in decision making? Never. Race a factor in decision making? Never. Socio-economic status a factor in decision making? Never. Gender a factor? Never.

That being said, what's the problem? Get on with the killing!!!

mom_of_three 8 years, 1 month ago

Race isn't necessarily a factor for Kansas, as several on death row are white. And while I can't speak for a few of them, because I don't remember the crimes, there is overwhelming evidence in Thurber, Robinson, and the Carr brothers.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 1 month ago

We can't even begin to kill enough innocent babies in this state (and the death of Tiller was a huge step back in that area).

But capital punishment; it's just horrific, unthinkable, inhumane.

Viciously mangle the innocent and defenseless unborn, but defend the guilty so they may live long lives in our cushy correctional facilities.

...and some say life isn't fair?! Ha!

planetwax 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey MrRightWing,

Did it ever occur to you that Dr. Tiller was the last resort for many women who needed an abortion? Notice, I didn't say CHOOSE. The indirect effect of losing a doctor like Dr. Tiller is that more women will die from a lack of HEALTH CARE services. If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, I suppose you're against removing the pregancy? Get real. There are real needs for abortion and you would know that if you did your homework.

Back on topic, it should not be the business of the state to execute people. I am not a religious person saying this. It should not be anybody's job to lead these walking dead men and women to their last breath. The psychological ramifications of carrying out such orders has a negative social cost. This is something that is NEVER brought up in debate.

The costs of litigation to execute is overwhelmingly unnecessary and misappropriated. Just because an execution seems to correlate with dropping murder rates in Texas, that does not equate it to a deterrent, nor does it improve the quality of anyone's life within the broader society.

Our society seems to think that caging up people is beneficial. Of course, it is beneficial to all of the money hungry industries that revolve around the prison systems. They need more "disposable humans" to feed the insatiable appetite of the machine.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, at the risk of getting totally slammed on here, I'm coming clean. I am a Christian fundamentalist, about as conservative as you can get; there is no excuse (ever) for killing an innocent, defenseless life. 90% of the times you have other legitimate options. The other 10%? You leave that up to Someone with much more wisdom than you and I combined.

As a conservative ('unaffiliated' not 'republican') I feel the government gets way too involved in so many areas of our life. But, they do have a duty to protect all of us from vicious killers and folks who have no second thought in brutally ending someone else's life. I'd much rather they be executed than take a chance of having them released (or escape) and rape (regardless of your sex), torture then murder you...or anyone else.

So.....always let the innocent and defenseless live (even if occasionally it is at the cost of the mother), and execute those that are an obvious danger to us and our children. Regardless of whether you or others respect them or not, those are my views.

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