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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/29/10

Contemplating the Death Penalty and Justice

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Message Janet Parker

Human rights advocates have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the death penalty as it is applied here in the USA. My home state of Kansas is one of 35 states that have the death penalty; 15 states and the District of Columbia do not. The federal government, both civilian and military, also allows for capital punishment.

On June 29, 1972, the United States Supreme Court, in Furman vs. Georgia, struck down the death penalty because it could not agree on how the punishment could be carried out fairly and humanely. That case voided death penalty laws in 40 states, including Kansas, and commuted the sentences of 629 individuals on death rows. It took Kansas 18 years to enact a new death penalty law, which was passed on April 23, 1994. There have been no executions in Kansas since the law went into effect on July 1, 1994.

In October 2009, a historic decision was made by the American Law Institute (ALI) to remove the death penalty from its Model Penal Code.

Recently I participated in advocating for the abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of Kansas in support of Kansas Senate bill SB 375. There was a heated and stirring debate bringing up issues on both sides of this contentious issue in this predominately conservative state. On Feb. 19, 2010 from the gallery, I watched as the leaders of my state congress took the floor, one of them my own elected representative, Kansas State Senator Marci Francisco.

Since 1994 there have been more than 100 potential capital cases in Kansas, 25 capital trials ending in death sentences for twelve of those cases. As the discussion came to a vote on the floor, there were persons on both sides of this issue who spoke passionately about their conviction either for or against the death penalty.

Those opposed to the death penalty pointed out the fact that mistakes do happen. Around the nation, more than 100 individuals have been released from death rows on grounds of innocence.

Statistics did not prove that the death penalty was a real deterrent to crime. Instead by 2001, the murder rate in the death penalty states was 37% higher than the rate in states without the death penalty.

Other arguments against the death penalty included jury, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct; disparity of application; withheld evidence; and inadequate assistance of counsel.

Opponents also argued that the death penalty is used very infrequently, but it drove the adjudication costs of prosecution up so dramatically that it was a real economic issue for many conservatives. The Kansas Board of Indigents Defense, which established a Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, specializes in defense on capital punishment issues and has a $1.4 million a year budget.

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Medical Whistleblower is an organization dedicated to advocacy and emotional support for those who have bravely stepped forward to "Tell Truth to Power" to the Medical Establishment. Medical Whistleblowers report Medical Fraud, Abuse and (more...)

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