Feb 26, 2024

AG explains death penalty method legislation

Posted Feb 26, 2024 11:00 AM
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach explained why he has introduced a bill to allow for a different method of execution in Kansas in death penalty cases.

"Right now, Kansas has the death penalty on the books, but we don't have a means of actually achieving the execution of an inmate, when the time comes and all of the appeals have been exhausted," Kobach said. "My point to the legislators was, the state of Kansas is lying to the people of Kansas if it says we can carry out the death penalty right now."

The law as it sits now only allows for execution by lethal injection. The companies that made those drugs before don't want to do it now.

"Over the last few years, lethal injection has become very difficult, because the pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, have said, we're not going to allow our chemicals to be used in the death penalty, because they politically oppose it," Kobach said. "The European Union countries have said, we're not going to allow the chemicals to be exported to the United States for use in the death penalty. It's become very difficult to obtain them. Indeed, in South Carolina recently, they had to postpone two executions, because they still couldn't obtain the drugs."

The method being contemplated by the proposed legislation is nitrogen hypoxia. The AP reported that the latest person executed by this method, Alabama convicted murderer Kenneth Eugene Smith, who was killed by that state Jan. 25, convulsed in seizurelike spasms for at least two minutes of the 22-minute execution. Kansas has not executed anyone since 1965, even though the death penalty has been on the books again in Kansas since 1994.

"It doesn't really raise the issue, are we going to have the death penalty or not," Kobach said. "It's, if we're going to have the death penalty, let's be ready. We do have a couple cases that could be ready for execution to be carried out within the next year or two."

It is theoretically possible, if the bill made it out of committee and onto the floor, that the larger question of the death penalty could be raised by an amendment being made to the bill, as opening up the overall topic would likely be germane, depending on the ruling of those legislative bodies.

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