State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, was among the conservatives who joined together in the Kansas Capitol March 17, to voice opposition to the death penalty.
They gathered during the noon hour on the first floor rotunda of the statehouse. Speakers said the death penalty is incompatible with conservative values such as limited government, fiscal responsibility and valuing life.
The event "was very well received," said Mary Sloan, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty. While most of the crowd was Republican, there were a few Democrats, Sloan said.
"Repeal of the death penalty is supported by people in both parties, conservatives, moderates, progressives," Sloan said. "It goes across the board."
Many of in the audience were moved by testimony from men who had been on death row and were later exonerated, Sloan said. Ron Keine and Ray Krone, both of whom had been sentenced to death in Oklahoma before being found to be innocent, addressed the crowd.
Other speakers were: Rep. Bill Sutton, R-Gardner, former Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora and Laura Peredo, president of Ravens Respect Life at Benedictine College in Atchison. Speakers said things McGinn has been arguing for more than five years.
McGinn said death penalty cases cost more than non-death penalty cases; they take money away from social programs that could prevent crime; they do not deter crime; they are unfair, with African-Americans being disproportionately sentenced to death and many innocent people have been sent to death row.
"States that have the death penalty have a higher murder rate," McGinn said.
A Kansas legislative post audit conducted in 2003 found death penalty cases cost the state 70 percent more than cases where the death penalty is not sought. Death penalty cases, on average, cost $1.2 million while non-death penalty cases cost approximately $740,000.
With the state's fiscal crisis, eliminating the death penalty "would be an area where we could save money. We could use that money for prevention programs that have been cut in the last five years to avoid having these horrible crimes," McGinn said.
In 2010 McGinn sponsored a bill that would repeal the death penalty. The bill did not pass the senate, getting a 20-20 vote.
This legislative session, the House Committee on the Judiciary introduced House Bill 2129, which would abolish the death penalty. The bill is still in committee.
"It was my understanding, I was told the bill would get a hearing," McGinn said. "If we're not getting a hearing this week, we're not going to get one."
The bill can still be considered next legislative session, she said.
In 2010, 19 Republicans voted against repealing the death penalty with 12 voting to repeal it. Of the nine Democrats in the Senate, only one voted against repealing it.
There is a much different make-up of the senate today. McGinn has been sharing statistics with fellow Republicans, but said, "I don't think they're there yet, as far as understanding the death penalty costs more money."
She believes more lawmakers will come around when they take into account the financial costs of the death penalty. While finances are a concern to McGinn, she has other reasons for opposing capital punishment.
"I'm pro-life from beginning to the end by natural death," she said. "I don't think we should let government decide when to end a person's life."