Kansas will consider abolishing the death penalty next year as death sentences are declining across the United States.
Fewer people were sentenced to death this year than any other year since 1976, according to a report released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center.
The report cites 106 new death sentences handed down in 2009, compared to 111 in 2008. Both are down significantly from a decade ago, when 284 death sentences were given out.
Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, has scheduled four days of hearings beginning Jan. 19 on a new bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Kansas.
A Kansas Judicial Council advisory committee of lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers helped rewrite a bill sponsored last year by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
But Kansas' top prosecutor said this week he wants to see the death penalty continue.
"I think it's a just punishment for what those folks did," Attorney General Steve Six told The Eagle.
Cost a factor
More people were put to death nationwide this year (52) than last year (37), Friday's report said.
The report attributed the increase to four months in 2008 when states halted executions while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a challenge to lethal injection. The high court found the method was not cruel and unusual punishment, allowing executions to continue.
The push against the death penalty, however, moved from the courthouse to the statehouse.
This year, 11 states considered bills to abolish the death penalty. New Mexico became the 15th state to repeal it, following an effort by a coalition of churches.
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