— Special to TMN
Today at the Capitol, Representative Bill Sutton, R–Gardner, joined a group of conservative leaders calling for support of HB 2129. This bill would replace the death penalty in Kansas with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Their case is straightforward: the death penalty is at odds with core conservative values—a commitment to fiscal responsibility, limited government, and valuing life.
“There are millions of dollars spent on trials and appeals and we have nothing to show for it,” Sutton said. “There is absolutely zero utility for the tax dollars spent.” Earlier this year, Rep. Sutton detailed the high cost of Kansas’ death penalty in an op-ed appearing in Watchdog.org.
“More Kansas conservatives like myself are recognizing that the death penalty is unnecessary and in many ways harmful to the state,” said former Republican State Representative Anthony Brown. “Because of this growing conservative support, red states like Kansas are considering ending the death penalty.”
In addition to Kansas, Nebraska is also considering legislation to repeal the death penalty. A bill repealing the death penalty and replacing it with life without parole passed the Nebraska Judiciary Committee unanimously earlier this month.
Two individuals wrongfully sentenced to death and later found innocent, Ray Krone and Ron Keine of Witness to Innocence, also spoke at today’s event. Keine, who has been active in Republican politics since his release, does not trust government with the power to execute. “The government almost killed me and dozens of other innocent individuals across the country who were wrongfully sentenced to death. Kansas has an opportunity this year to ensure that the state never runs that risk.”
Krone said, “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.” Krone was the 100th person in America to have faced the death penalty and to be later proven innocent. Since 1973, 150 people have been wrongfully sentenced to death and later exonerated.
Young conservatives also call for repealing the death penalty. Laura Peredo, president of Ravens Respect Life at Benedictine College, explained her rationale for opposing the death penalty: “No crime can change the fundamental truth that every human life possesses dignity from the moment of conception until natural death. I am one of a growing number of young people who support repealing the death penalty—a reform that demonstrates our unwavering commitment to safeguarding life at all stages, without exceptions.”
Jill Craven, Secretary of the Fourth District of the Kansas Republican Party, said it’s time that Republicans take a stand on the death penalty consistent with party values. “I challenge conservatives to take a fresh look at all the details surrounding this issue—moral implications and fiscal impact—and again stand boldly for what is right,” said Craven.
The call for repeal is stated in an open letter signed by Craven, Sutton, Brown and other prominent conservatives from across Kansas. Speakers are hopeful that the growing conservative support in Kansas for repeal of the death penalty will lead to a hearing and a vote on HB 2129, which currently is in the House Appropriations Committee.