© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Opponents push back against Kansas attorney general's move to speed up executions

 Kris Kobach speaking to reporters
Blaise Mesa
Kansas News Service
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach proposed legislation last month to change the state’s capital punishment laws in hopes of speeding up the execution process.

Hypoxia is the medical term for when there is insufficient oxygen in the body. Kansas hasn't executed someone since 1965, and Attorney General Kris Kobach is pushing to legalize the method first used in Alabama this January. Critics call it cruel and akin to suffocation.

A proposal by Kansas Attorney General Kris Koback to change the state's capital punishment laws in hopes of getting executions underway in Kansas is meeting opposition on a number of fronts.

Jurors have sentenced 15 people to death since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, and nine inmates are currently on death row. But no one has been executed in nearly six decades.

“If Kansas is going to have a death penalty, it needs to be possible to implement,” Kobach recently told reporters.

Citing a lack of access to the drugs used for lethal injection — the only legal execution method in Kansas — Kobach proposed adding death by hypoxia as an option in capital punishment cases.

Death by hypoxia is when a person is deprived of oxygen until death. The controversial method was used for the first time in the execution of Alabama inmate Kenneth Smith in January.

“To put it bluntly, this is suffocating someone to death,” Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist at Emory University who studies the death penalty, told KCUR’s Up To Date.

State Senator Carolyn McGinn is a Republican who represents Sedgwick County, including part of Wichita. She’s been a long-time vocal opponent of the death penalty because of how costly it is for Kansas taxpayers.

McGinn also believes capital punishment contradicts the pro-life sentiment that many of her constituents adhere to.

“This is a child of God, and babies should be allowed to be born, and I’ve always wondered at what point in time did they quit being a child of God to where now the government can execute the individual,” she said.

Stay Connected
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As a producer for Up To Date, I create sound-rich talk show segments about the individuals and communities that call Kansas City home. Whether it’s a poet, a business owner or a local lawmaker, I seek out diverse voices to help break down the biggest stories of the day. After listening to the show, I want Up To Date listeners to feel informed and empowered to make decisions in their daily lives. You can reach me at claudiab@kcur.org
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.