3 States Have Unused Lethal Injection Chambers; Will Kansas’ Ever Be Used?


The last execution in Kansas was in 1965. In recent years, several states have banned capital punishment. It is on hiatus in some states because of problems obtaining the drugs used in lethal injections, which has led to botched executions. In Kansas, the death penalty is in a sort of legal limbo: still on the books, just not being carried out, reports the Lawrence Journal-World. There have been no executions in the 20 years since the death penalty was reinstated in Kansas, due, observers say, to an exhaustive appeals process, a cautious state Supreme Court dealing with a fairly new and restrictive law, and the state’s low murder rate. Nine men are on death row in Kansas.

Only two other states — Nebraska and California — have a lethal injection chamber that has never been used. The only death penalty state that has gone longer without an execution is New Hampshire, which last killed a prisoner in 1939 and has only one person on death row. Kansas doesn’t even have lethal injection drugs in stock because a possible execution is so far in the future. “Kansas has sort of a historical ambivalence about the death penalty,” said Rebecca Woodman, a former appellate defender for capital cases in Kansas who now directs the Death Penalty Litigation Center in Kansas City, Mo. Opponents cite the high cost of capital cases. In a study issued this year, the Kansas Judicial Council found that from 2004-2011 the state spent an average of $395,762 on cases where the death penalty was sought compared to $98,963 where it was not.

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