We Must Stop Kansas from Moving Backwards

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Anthony Graves is one of the 143 exonerated death row inmates who have been released due to wrongful conviction since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. Graves spent 18 years in jail, including 16 years on death row, for a crime he didn't commit (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images).

Anthony Graves is one of the 143 exonerated death row inmates who have been released due to wrongful conviction since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. Graves spent 18 years in jail, including 16 years on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images).

By Donna Schneweis, Amnesty USA’s Kansas State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator

On Feb. 13th, 2014, the Kansas Senate passed a bill that would speed up the appeals process for people sentenced to death. If this becomes law, it would increase the possibility of Kansas executing someone who was wrongfully convicted of capital murder.

Nationally, since the death penalty was reinstated, 143 people who faced the death penalty have been released due to wrongful conviction. The most recent exoneree, Reginald Griffin, was sentenced to death in 1983 and spent 30 years on death row in Missouri. If this bill passes the Kansas House and is signed into law, the resulting changes would enhance the risk to the innocent in Kansas.

As the world begins to abandon the death penalty and move towards justice, the Kansas Senate, by deciding to move this bill forward, took a giant step backwards.

Kansas stands at risk of sentencing innocent persons to death because its justice system has the same types of errors that have put innocent persons on death row in other states.

The powerful testimony of Eddie Lowery proved that point. Lowery was innocent, yet served his whole felony sentence in Kansas and had to register as a sex offender before his innocence was proven. The judicial process did not save him!

Proponents say this bill is needed because of problems with the Kansas death penalty. Tinkering with appeals is not the solution to Kansas’ death penalty mess. 18 states in the United States have recognized the best answer to the problems with the death penalty is to abolish it.

These states have recognized that whether guilty or innocent, the death penalty is a violation of our human right to life as well as cruel, flawed, unfair, expensive and tainted with human error. As the world begins to abandon the death penalty and move towards justice, the Kansas Senate, by deciding to move this bill forward, took a giant step backwards.

Join our effort to stop this bill by contacting your Representative and urging him/her to oppose any effort to speed up the death penalty appeals process. The answer to Kansas death penalty problems isn’t in killing faster. The solution is to end it once and for all. We won’t have to worry about executing the innocent and the money we save could go into victim services. Now that would be a step forward!

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