TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man who spent 15 years behind bars for a killing his brother eventually admitted to committing says his case is a good example of why the state should repeal its death penalty.
Floyd Bledsoe, who was released from prison in December, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 slaying of Camille Arfmann in Oskaloosa. His freedom came after new DNA evidence was found and his brother, Tom Bledsoe, wrote notes in which he admitted killing Arfmann before he committed suicide.
On Thursday, Floyd Bledsoe urged Kansas lawmakers to repeal the death penalty. He said although he wasn’t sentenced to death, his experience proves the state’s laws and court system are imperfect, the Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1PWWqxi) reported.
“The death penalty is unjust. Please stop it,” he said during an anti-death penalty rally in the Statehouse rotunda.
A bipartisan bill to repeal the death penalty was introduced in the House earlier this month by Rep. Steven Becker, a Buhler Republican who is a retired judge. Sixteen other representatives - 10 Republicans and six Democrats - co-sponsored the measure.
Becker said his experience in the criminal justice system solidified his opposition to the death penalty, arguing that the “reasonable doubt” standard for proof in criminal cases is paradoxical to the death penalty.
“How can we impose the absolute certainty of death when we don’t require the absolute certainty of guilt?” Becker asked.
Under his bill, death sentences would be barred for anyone committing a crime on or after July 1. Defendants sentenced for a crime before that could still be executed, though Kansas hasn’t executed anyone in more than a half-century.
Death sentences would be replaced by sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The bill also would create a “death penalty abolition fund” under the control of the Kansas Department of Corrections. The bill would require the state budget director to place any cost savings stemming from abolition of the death penalty into the fund for use by the corrections department.
Rep. Bill Sutton, a co-sponsor, noted the high fiscal costs of the state’s death row and said he came to the Legislature to shrink the size of government.
“It doesn’t make any sense. You get exactly nothing for your tax dollars,” Sutton, a Republican from Gardner, said.
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com
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