Capital punishment in Kansas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Kansas but has not been used since 1965.[1]

Legal process[edit]

When the prosecution seeks the death penalty, the sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous.

In case of a hung jury during the penalty phase of the trial, a life sentence is issued, even if a single juror opposed death. There is no retrial.[2]

The Governor has alone the clemency power, after receiving a non-binding recommendation from a board.[3]

In 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court in a 4 to 3 decision ruled state's death penalty statute to be unconstitutional.[4] The decision was later reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kansas v. Marsh (2005), effectively reinstating the statute.

Capital crimes[edit]

Capital murder is punishable by death if it involves one of the following aggravating factors:[5]

  1. The defendant was previously convicted of a felony in which the defendant inflicted great bodily harm, disfigurement, dismemberment or death on another.
  2. The defendant knowingly or purposely killed or created a great risk of death to more than one person.
  3. The defendant committed the crime for the defendant's self or another for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value.
  4. The defendant authorized or employed another person to commit the crime.
  5. The defendant committed the crime in order to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest or prosecution.
  6. The defendant committed the crime in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner, that is:
    • prior stalking of or criminal threats to the victim;
    • preparation or planning, indicating an intention that the killing was meant to be especially heinous, atrocious or cruel;
    • infliction of mental anguish or physical abuse before the victim's death;
    • torture of the victim;
    • continuous acts of violence begun before or continuing after the killing;
    • desecration of the victim's body in a manner indicating a particular depravity of mind, either during or following the killing; or
    • any other conduct the trier of fact expressly finds is especially heinous.
  7. The defendant committed the crime while serving a sentence of imprisonment on conviction of a felony.
  8. The victim was killed while engaging in, or because of the victim's performance or prospective performance of, the victim's duties as a witness in a criminal proceeding.

Death sentences and executions[edit]

Currently, there are 10 people on death row, all males.[6] Lethal injection is the only permitted method of execution.[6]

Generally, death sentences are rarely passed in Kansas.[7][8]

There is no "death row" in Kansas, as inmates are housed at the El Dorado Correctional Facility along with other inmates in administrative segregation.[9]


From 1853 to 1965, 76 executions were carried out under Kansas jurisdiction.[10] All but one, the first, were by hanging.[11] These figures do not include executions that took place at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth and United States Disciplinary Barracks; while located within KS borders, these hangings were performed under federal government and U.S. military jurisdiction respectively.

Kansas first abolished the death penalty on January 30, 1907, then restored it in 1935, although no executions took place until 1944.[8] From 1954 to 1960, there were no hangings in Kansas, as Governor George Docking refused to let any execution proceed due to his opposition to capital punishment. The last execution in Kansas took place on June 22, 1965 (double hanging of George York and James Latham).[8]

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous, Kansas death penalty case was that of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, sentenced for the 1959 murder of a farming family. The crime, trial and 1965 execution were a subject of Truman Capote's 1966 bestselling documentary novel In Cold Blood.

After the 1976 United States Supreme Court decision in Gregg v. Georgia permitted states to reinstate the death penalty, the Kansas legislature made numerous attempts to do so, but Governor John W. Carlin vetoed such legislation in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1985.[12] The death penalty was eventually reinstated on April 23, 1994. Of states that still allow the death penalty, Kansas was the last to reinstate the death penalty in the modern era.[12] The law became effective on July 1, after then-Governor Joan Finney, despite her proclaimed opposition to capital punishment, decided to allow the bill to become law without her signature.[12] The first degree murder with the aggravating factors is the only crime punishable by death.[13] Despite reinstatement, no one has been executed since.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carpenter, Tim. [ "Kansas bill repealing death penalty evokes moral, religious, justice arguments"] Check |url= value (help). The Garden City Telegram. GateHouse Media. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  2. ^ "§21-6617 Persons convicted of capital murder; proceeding to determine if person shall be sentenced to death; notice; trial judge; jury; imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole". Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  3. ^ "Clemency | Death Penalty Information Center". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  4. ^ " - Kansas death penalty ruled unconstitutional - Dec 17, 2004". 2004-12-17. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  5. ^ Kansas Statutes § 21-6624
  6. ^ a b "State by State Database | Death Penalty Information Center". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  7. ^ "Kansas Death Penalty Rarely Used in 18 Years | Death Penalty Information Center". 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  8. ^ a b c "Kansas Facts | Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  9. ^ "Capital Punishment Information — Kansas Department of Corrections". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  10. ^ "State by State Database | Death Penalty Information Center". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  11. ^ "Executions is the U.S. 1608-2002: The ESPY File : Executions by State" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  12. ^ a b c "Kansas | Death Penalty Information Center". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  13. ^ "Kansas Legislators Ok Bill To Restore Death Penalty". 1994-04-10. Retrieved 2016-07-21.