"Kansas legislators anticipate death penalty debate in 2014 amid review of murder sentences," is the AP report by John Milburn, via the Daily Journal. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
Kansas lawmakers expect a lively debate next year on whether to revisit the state's penalties for murder, as some are pushing for tougher prison sentences while others are seeking to repeal capital punishment following an unsuccessful effort this past session.
The issue surfaced this month as legislators met briefly to fix a constitutional flaw in the procedure for imposing the Hard 50 prison sentence on offenders convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. The state took the action following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said juries, not judges, must consider whether the facts in a case should prompt mandatory minimum sentences.
Senate Vice President Jeff King said Friday the two-day special session brought into focus the need for policymakers to re-examine whether the state's murder sentences are adequate when compared to other crimes. Recent legislative sessions have led to increased penalties for sex crimes and kidnapping.
"I want to take a broad look at all the sentencing," said King, an Independence Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I think this is going to be an important part of our debate."
The Hard 50 changes applied to certain first-degree murder cases where the crimes were so heinous that prosecutors sought to put the offender away for 50 years without parole. The changes require juries, not judges, to consider factors that would merit the sentence, which is reserved for those cases that fall short of meriting death penalty consideration.
Like King, Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, believes the discussion of murder sentences will ultimately lead legislators to discuss whether to keep the death penalty or replace it with life in prison without parole.
"I believe now is the time for a discussion among those in the Legislature who consider religion a main part of their public service to decide whether it's necessary for a barbaric and immoral law should remain on the books," Haley said.
Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994 when Democratic Gov. Joan Finney allowed a bill to become law without her signature. Finney based her decision on "the will of the people" after several years of failed legislative efforts, including a push by her Republican predecessor.
The last execution in the state was in 1965. Nine men are sentenced to die by lethal injection in Kansas.
Earlier coverage from Kansas begins at the link.