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Opponents Of Kansas Death Penalty Pushing Repeal Bill

Jim McClean

A bipartisan group of Kansas legislators is attempting to repeal the state’s death penalty. They say they’re building support among rank and file lawmakers but having trouble overcoming opposition from legislative leaders.

The lawmakers sponsoring the repeal bill say the death penalty is ineffective, wasteful and unjust.

Republican Rep. Steven Becker from Buhler, a former district court judge, says he knows first-hand that the judicial system makes mistakes. Since the early 1970s, he says 156 people convicted of capital crimes were later found innocent and released from death row.

“We gave death sentences to innocent people because we have an imperfect system because we don’t require absolute certainty of guilt," he says.

Credit Jim McClean / Heartland Health Monitor
Heartland Health Monitor
Floyd Bledsoe speaks before a bipartisan group of legislators pushing for the repeal of the death penalty Thursday at the Statehouse. Bledsoe spent 16 years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Several lawmakers in the bipartisan group spoke Thursday at a Statehouse rally that also featured Floyd Bledsoe.

Bledsoe spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Freed in December with the help of DNA evidence, Bledsoe says he’s living proof that the justice system makes mistakes.

And, he says, the state can’t afford mistakes in death penalty cases.

“We have to stop the death penalty today. Tomorrow might be too late for one person," Bledsoe says. "Think about it. Think about it, what is one life worth?”

Becker says he believes death penalty opponents have the votes to pass the repeal bill in the House. But he says the Republican leaders who control the calendar are trying to keep the bill from coming to a vote.