NEW VOICES: Kansas Judge and Religious Leaders Recommend Death Penalty Repeal

Retired District Judge Steven Becker, along with prosecutors, defense lawyers, and religious leaders, recently testified at a legislative hearing in Kansas in favor of a bill to repeal the death penalty. Judge Becker commented, “As long as the death penalty is a part of our imperfect system, there will always be the unacceptable possibility of the execution of an innocent person.” Ron Wurtz, a federal public defender and a former director of the state’s Death Penalty Defense Unit, highlighted the ongoing risks of executing innocent defendants: “The American people have seen the ongoing releases from death row. About one release for wrongful conviction for every nine executions.” Other groups voicing their concerns with the state’s death penalty were the Kansas Catholic Conference, the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the League of Women Voters. Testimony indicated the death penalty imposes a significant financial burden on the state: the cost of prosecution and appellate action on a single death penalty case was estimated at $1.2 million, while the incarceration of someone sentenced to life in prison was placed at $740,000.

(T. Carpenter, “House panel explores views on death penalty,” Kansas Capital-Journal, March 15, 2012). See New Voices and Recent Legislative Activity.