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Hard 50 Fix Clears House Committee

A Kansas House committee Tuesday passed a proposed fix for the state’s Hard 50 sentencing law.

The law allows judges to sentence certain convicted murderers to at least 50 years in prison without eligibility for parole. The House's proposed revision would change the process so that juries also play a part in doling out Hard 50 sentences. The revised law would also attempt to preserve the Hard 50 sentences currently being served by prisoners.

Lawrence attorney Jessica Glendening told the committee that making changes retroactive is unconstitutional, and the bill could lead to costly appeals. But Stephen Howe, Johnson County district attorney, said the bill can help keep past Hard 50 sentences intact.

“We’d rather fight and lose than not fight at all to try to hold these cases that we think are so important for the public safety of the people of the state of Kansas,” Howe said.

A recent U.S. Supreme court case raised questions about the constitutionality of the state’s old Hard 50 law. The full Kansas House will also likely debate the bill Tuesday.