The Kansas death penalty has been abolished and reinstated three times. The state’s death penalty was first abolished in 1907. It was reinstated in 1935, but no executions took place under the law until 1944. Kansas had this death penalty statute in effect until the 1972 US Supreme Court ruling that struck down several states’ death penalty statutes on constitutional grounds. After the 1976 US Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the constitutionality of the death penalty, numerous attempts were made to reinstate it in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1985. The current death penalty statute was enacted in 1994 when Governor Finney allowed it to become law without her signature, making it the last state of those which still allow the death penalty to reinstate it in the post-1972 era.
However, even with reinstatement, there have been no executions in Kansas at the state level since 1965. There have also been no commutations or clemency for the 9 people which are presently on death row. In 2010, the Kansas Senate was one vote short of passing a bill replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole for the crime of aggravated murder. Abolition efforts in Kansas continue to press on; there is broad public support for a repeal and many faith communities have joined together with a united voice.
The U.S. Military Death Row is also located in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth. It was reinstated there in 1984 by an executive order of President Reagan after a military court of appeals declared, in 1983, that previous military statues for imposition of the death penalty were unconstitutional. Since then the government has sought the death penalty for prisoners 49 times. 15 have been convicted, but of those 15, only 2 have been condemned and the others either had their sentences commuted or are appealing. Of the two condemned, one awaits execution by Presidential order and the other is under appeal.
CMN State Spotlight – June 2011
“The prospects for abolition are certainly positive in Kansas. But there is still work to be done. Please join the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty in working towards replacing the death penalty with a non-lethal alternative.”