First printed by Voices of Liberty on March 19, 2015
2 Men With Overturned Death Penalty Sentences Join Red State Leaders in Rethinking Capital Punishment
March 19, 2015—On Tuesday March 17th inside the rotunda at the Kansas State Capitol, there was a typical scene for what is widely considered to be one of the most conservative states in America. A Republican legislator, a former Republican lawmaker, a district-level GOP official, and a pro-life activist all gathered together to hold a news conference.
However, their message caught some by surprise: the time has come to end Kansas’ failed experiment with the death penalty. Their call to end capital punishment stemmed from core conservative principles, such as a commitment to fiscal responsibility, limited government, and valuing life.
State Representative Bill Sutton, a Republican from the town of Gardner, led these conservative leaders in calling for support of a bill that would replace the death penalty in Kansas with life in prison without the possibility of parole. “There are millions of dollars spent on trials and appeals and we have nothing to show for it,” said Sutton. “There is absolutely zero utility for the tax dollars spent.”
His message was echoed by another conservative Republican who had served in the legislature. “More Kansas conservatives like myself are recognizing that the death penalty is unnecessary and in many ways harmful to the state,” said former State Representative Anthony Brown.
One of those conservatives is Laura Peredo, president of Ravens Respect Life at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. “No crime can change the fundamental truth that every human life possesses dignity from the moment of conception until natural death,” Peredo said. “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.”
Increasingly GOP officials at the local level are also making their voices heard, stating that the death penalty is inconsistent with conservative principles. “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 Jill Craven, Secretary of the 4th District of the Kansas Republican Party.
Helping this group of conservative leaders make their case were two men who were wrongfully sentenced to death and later released from death row. Ray Krone and Ron Keine, who has been active in Republican politics since his release, do 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,” Keine said. “Kansas has an opportunity this year to ensure that the state never runs that risk.”
Krone was the 100th person in America to be released from death row because he was wrongly convicted. “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody,” Krone said. Since 1973, 150 people have been wrongfully sentenced to die and later released.
Kansas conservatives are not alone in re-examining the death penalty and calling for its repeal. The State of Nebraska is also considering legislation to abolish capital punishment. In fact, a bill repealing the death penalty and replacing it with life without parole unanimously passed out of the Nebraska Judiciary Committee earlier this month. Conservative Republican lawmakers played a key role.
Keep watching as conservatives in Kansas, Nebraska, and elsewhere continue to join together to end the death penalty in their state. The signs of change are underway.