death penalty

Updated at 2:14 a.m. ET Wednesday

Editor's note: This story includes information that may be upsetting to some readers.

Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, died by lethal injection early Wednesday after the Supreme Court vacated several lower-court rulings, clearing the way for her to become the first female prisoner to be put to death by the U.S. government since 1953.

Wesley Ira Purkey was put to death this morning for the murder of a Kansas City teenager in 1998 after the Supreme Court lifted two stays blocking his execution.

Purkey was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 8:19 a.m. EDT.

His execution came after a flurry of legal moves seeking to halt the procedure. On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., granted Purkey a preliminary injunction after his lawyers said he was incompetent to be executed, citing his dementia, mental illness and a history of being abused as a child.

A federal judge this morning halted the execution of a Kansas man convicted of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old Kansas girl in 1998.

Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, was scheduled to be executed today. But U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., granted a preliminary injunction after his lawyers argued that Purkey is mentally unfit to be put to death because he has dementia and a documented history of mental illness, doesn’t understand that his execution is punishment for his capital crime, and can’t effectively communicate with his legal counsel.

In a ruling that could have implications for criminal cases nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against a Kansas death row inmate who argued that the state's laws regarding the insanity defense are unconstitutional.

Kansas and three other states — Utah, Montana and Idaho — have banished the insanity defense as a formal mechanism. Alaska also has severe restrictions on its use.

Bloomsberries / flickr Creative Commons

A recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling declaring that the state constitution protects access to abortion opened the door to a new legal attack on the death penalty.

Courtesy KDOC

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of Justin Thurber. Yet the justices delayed a decision on his death sentence and said a lower court must reconsider whether he has a developmental disability.

A jury sentenced Thurber to death for the 2007 killing of 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm, a college student in Cowley County.

Kansas Department of Corrections

Proposals to rebuild part of the prison at Lansing could prompt a new debate over the Kansas death penalty. Plans for the prison include closing the facility that houses the state’s death chamber.

Kansas hasn’t executed anyone since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1990s. At a committee meeting Thursday, Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn said instead of building a new death chamber, legislators might want to consider eliminating the death penalty.

Neil Conway, flickr Creative Commons

A proposed bill would compensate wrongfully convicted people in Kansas $80,000 for each year served in prison and give them an additional $1 million if they were on death row.

The bill, if signed into law, would make Kansas one of the most generous states for exonerated people. The state currently doesn't have a law for wrongful conviction compensation.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Opponents of the death penalty are making a new push to repeal capital punishment in Kansas. They hope the crop of new lawmakers could give repeal efforts a new chance. They made their arguments on Monday at the Statehouse.

Celeste Dixon’s mother was murdered in Texas, and her killer was executed. Dixon, who lives in Larned, says she used to support the death penalty, but she now believes the money spent on Kansas death row cases could be better used in other law enforcement.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Two former Kansas attorneys general, a Democrat and a Republican, say Kansas Supreme Court justices should keep their jobs. Five justices face retention elections this November.

The two former politicians have joined a campaign by the group Kansans for Fair Courts.

Former Attorneys General Bob Stephan and Steve Six say the Kansas justices have been fair and impartial in their rulings. They say a very small number of the court’s decision have been overturned on appeal, which shows the justices are doing good work.

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