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Conservatives Are Increasingly Opposing Death Penalty to Better Represent 'Pro-Life Across the Board'

( [email protected] ) Mar 19, 2015 02:55 AM EDT
Conservative politicians in Kansas are setting out to abolish the death penalty in that state in what some are calling a complete pro-life philosophy that best represents what conservatives should stand for.
Citizens protest the death penalty outside St. Francis Xavier College in St. Louis. Photo: Jeff Roberson/The Associated Press

Conservative politicians in Kansas are setting out to abolish the death penalty in that state in what some are calling a complete pro-life philosophy that best represents what conservatives should stand for.

"I am pro-life across the board. That is non-negotiable," said Republican Representative Bill Sutton. "By ending the death penalty, Kansas can take an important step toward promoting a culture of life, as well as end a costly and ineffective government program."

Sutton and other conservative leaders took to Kansas' Capitol building in Topeka to call for support of HB 2129, a bill that would replace the death penalty in Kansas with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While many argue that life in prison would cost the taxpayers more money and resources, the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty says that that's just not true.

"Death penalty cases have higher trial costs, higher appeals costs and potential for retrial costs." In fact, according to the group, the average cost for death penalty cases is four times more than those that don't seek the death penalty.

The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty aims to pass this message along to other conservatives to break the stereotype that all conservatives seek capital punishment. With public support of the death penalty dwindling nationwide, the group is hoping that word will quickly spread and support will grow.

"If we are able to pass repeal of the death penalty in Kansas - a very conservative and the 'reddest' of 'red' states - other similar states will be encouraged and may be able to do so, too," said Mary Sloan, Executive Director of the coalition in an interview with The Gospel Herald.

"More and more conservatives who have respect for life have a consistent life ethic," she continued, when asked about the adoption of the "pro-life across the board" stance that Rep. Sutton expressed. "They oppose a wide range of things (from abortion to euthanasia to the death penalty) that involve violating the sanctity of life from natural birth to natural death."

In fact, the coalition argues that the death penalty is not only morally wrong, but it's inhumane. "Despite efforts to medicalize the death penalty with lethal injection, 2014 was a year rife with botched executions," the group says in a press release. "Inmates reportedly gasped, choked and struggled before succumbing, long after the lethal dose was intended to take full effect. The secrecy of drug combinations and their sources and the ability for prison staff to competently administer the lethal dose are all fraught with doubt and difficulty."

The recent high-profile murder trial of Jodi Arias is the most recent example of someone who was already convicted of the murder of her ex-boyfriend avoiding the death penalty by only one jury vote. This raises the important question of mistakes made by juries or even judges in these cases.

According to the Kansas Coalition, over 145 people have been exonerated of their death row sentences due to incorrect evidence. "On average, it takes more than 10 years for evidence proving innocence to emerge. DNA has contributed to hundreds of exonerations of wrongfully convicted people. Mistakes were due to eye witness misidentification (73%), unvalidated or improper forensics (52%), false confessions (23%), or mistakes from informants (16%)."

Nebraska officials are also considering a similar move to replace the death penalty with a life sentence. 

Laura Peredo, president of Raven Respect Life at Benedictine College, explains a Christian stance on the death penalty: "No crime can change the fundamental truth that every human life possesses dignity from the moment of conception until natural death. I am one of a growing number of young people who support repealing the death penalty-a reform that demonstrates our unwavering commitment to safeguarding life at all stages, without exceptions."