In the past two weeks, our neighbors in both South Dakota and Kansas have taken important first steps toward abolishing the failed death penalty system in their states.
To the north, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is currently mounting a repeal effort in South Dakota’s 2014 legislative session. SDADP’s director, Deacon Denny Davis, believes that recent executions, the first in the state in decades, have brought much-needed attention to the debate. He sees an opportunity to bring more people and support to their effort to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota.
Davis, who lived in South Sioux City, NE before his retirement, became the director of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty just last year. He met with state officials and received positive feedback before helping draft the bill that will be presented to the legislature this year.
“My efforts have nothing to do with argument or criticism,” Davis said. “I simply ask this question: Do we have to kill human beings who murder?”
Read more from Deacon Davis’ recent editorial on his opposition to the death penalty here.
Meanwhile, to the south, the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee heard arguments from supporters of death penalty abolition, including murder victims’ family members, death row exonerees, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City. The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty is supporting a bill in the legislature this year that would abolish the death penalty in the state of Kansas.
One victim’s family member asked the committee why the state’s resources were being spent on death penalty cases rather than on investigating unsolved crimes and supporting the families of victims. The committee also heard testimony from death row exoneree Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma before DNA evidence proved his innocence.
In addition, a member of the Kansas Judicial Council, a group of legal professionals and researchers, presented the group’s research findings in support of the bill. The Council found that, on average, death penalty trials in Kansas cost 3-4 times more than any other type of trial. This is partially due to the fact that the time needed for death penalty trials is more than twice what is needed for life sentence trials: 39.8 days compared to 16.8, on average. Additionally, the group found that the state Supreme Court spends 5-20 times as much time considering death sentence appeals as it does considering life sentence cases.
Representative Anthony Brown encouraged fellow Republicans to support repeal based on their shared pro-life stance. “If we continue to have a death penalty law on the books, to me that challenges at least my position as a pro-life legislator, or former legislator,” he said.
Be sure to let your friends in Kansas and South Dakota know to be in touch with their legislators during the next few weeks, and please remind your Nebraska state senator that you want to see the death penalty repealed in our state!