Kansas Senators Equally Divided on Repealing Death Penalty

A bill that would have ended the death penalty in Kansas lost by a tie vote of 20-20 in the state Senate on February 19. The bill would have replaced the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. Republican Senator Carolyn McGinn, the original sponsor of the legislation, argued for repeal, pointing to the high cost of the death penalty: “It costs half a million dollars, or 70 percent more, to try a death penalty case than a non-death penalty case and yet the state hasn’t executed anyone since 1965. We’re not executing anybody. Can we use this money to prevent future heinous, horrible crimes? Can we use it to solve cold cases that are up on the shelf for those families who don’t even know who murdered their family member?” Sen. McGinn also based her opposition to the death penalty on her respect-for-life position: Those who have committed even heinous murders are still children of God, she said. “Tell me, at what point in time did they lose that status and who made that decision,” she asked. Twelve of the 20 senators who voted for repeal were Republicans.

Also arguing for repeal, Republican Senator John Vratil said studies failed to show the death penalty was a deterrent to murder. Vratil cited figures that showed decreased murder rates in every state over the past two decades, regardless of whether the state had the death penalty.

(D. Klepper, “Live blogging from KS Death Penalty Debate: Bill Fails on 20-20 Vote,” Kansas City Star, February 22, 2010; Lawrence Journal-World, Feb. 20, 2010). See also Recent Legislative Activity.