Today's Topeka Capital-Journal publishes the editorial, "Death penalty appeals process shouldn't be brief."
Nine inmates in state prisons are under death sentences, but none has exhausted his appeals, a condition that many find unacceptable given the time that has elapsed since some of them were sentenced to death.
A bill that would limit to 3 1/2 years the time inmates have to appeal their death sentences to the Kansas Supreme Court has been approved by the Senate and moved to the House, where it will get a hearing in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee.
While few really harbor doubts about the guilt of those who now are on death row in the state, the limited time frame proposed for appeals is awfully short. If the seemingly interminable appeals process now in place is one extreme, a 3 1/2 year time frame for cases to reach the Supreme Court may be the other extreme.
Surely, there is room for compromise that will speed justice but not rush it.
Rushing justice can lead to mistakes, which include executing the wrong person. Investigations undertaken in recent years have found multiple cases in which the wrong person was convicted of a crime that carried the death penalty. And while the right people may now be on death row in Kansas, a system that encourages speed opens itself to mistakes. Our justice system is not infallible.
"Advocates fight to block death penalty bill," is the AP report, via the Garden City Telegram.
Kansas death penalty opponents said Wednesday a bill that would shorten the appeals process amounts to a "leaky Band-Aid" on a broken system.
At issue is a bill approved by the Senate last month that would set a limit of three and six months for the appeals to be prepared by attorneys, argued and decided by the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court. There is currently no time limit.
Some legislators and the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty argued Wednesday that the changes would increase the chances an innocent person will be executed and that the cases are too complex to rush through the system.
"It is just a fact that death penalty cases take a long time," said Ronald Wurtz, a retired public defender and former chief of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit. "However, judicial review takes so long because American capital sentences are so fraught with error that seriously undermines their reliability."
Five death penalty cases were reversed on their appeal by the Kansas Supreme Court. All death sentences are automatically appealed to the seven-member court. Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994 but has not carried out any executions.
The Capital-Journal also reports, "Prairie Village native puts face on death penalty debate," by Andy Marso.
For more than two decades Tom Goldstein proclaimed his innocence as he was shuttled from one California prison to another after a murder conviction.
Inmates laughed and pointed out others around them who were "innocent, too." Counselors yelled at him. His initial appeal attempt was denied.
It took 24 years, but the truth finally came out in Goldstein's case. An investigation into another murder trial revealed that a jailhouse informant used in both cases had lied under oath when he testified against Goldstein. Subsequent legal action showed that the detectives who investigated the murder had coerced the lone eyewitness into picking Goldstein out of a lineup.
Goldstein, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, still lives in California, but he grew up in Prairie Village. Opponents of the Kansas death penalty made him the face of their cause Wednesday as they spoke against a bill to speed up the appeals process for death row inmates.
Earlier coverage of the Kansas legislation begins at the link.