Capital punishment in Kansas

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Capital punishment in the U.S. state of Kansas is a legal form of punishment for the crime of capital murder. Kansas is one of two death penalty states, along with New Hampshire, that haven't performed any execution since 1976.


Current law

Kansas reinstated the death penalty 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.[1] The law became effective on July 1, after then-Governor Joan Finney, despite her proclaimed opposition to the capital punishment, decided to allow the bill to become law without her signature.[2] The first degree murder with the aggravating factors is the only crime punishable to death.[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. Currently, there are 10 people on death row, all males.[5] Lethal injection is the only permitted method of execution.[6]

Generally, death sentences are rarely passed in Kansas.[7][8] The Governor is a sole pardoning power, although he or she may receive a non-binding recommendation of clemency from a board. As of 2012, no executive death penalty commutation has been granted in Kansas.[9]

Before 1994 numerous attempts were made to reinstate the death penalty in Kansas, after 1976 United States Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia. Governor John W. Carlin successfully vetoed such legislations in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1985.[10]


From 1853 to 1965 76 executions were carried out under Kansas juriscition.[11] All but one (the first) by hanging.[12] These figures does 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 death penalty on January 30, 1907 and restored in 1935, although no executions took place until 1944.[13] 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 the capital punishment. The last execution in Kansas took place on June 22, 1965 (double hanging of George Ronald York and James Douglas Latham).[14]

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

See also