Opinion Columns & Blogs

How can Brownback sit out death penalty debate?


Gov. Sam Brownback, a convert to Catholicism, is known to leave the Statehouse on weekdays and attend Mass. Pope Francis has called capital punishment “an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person.” Yet Brownback last year advocated that two members of the Kansas Supreme Court not be retained over its order that struck down the death sentences of Jonathan and Reginald Carr, and one of his campaign ads claimed his opponent stood with “liberal judges who let the Carr brothers off the hook.” When he was a U.S. senator, Brownback told The Eagle editorial board that his view had “tightened a lot to where I only support capital punishment in cases where we cannot protect the society from the individual,” at the time mentioning Osama bin Laden as a good candidate. He added: “Where I think we have difficulty is continuing to try to push and to talk and to teach and to be in the culture with a culture of life, and still using a death penalty on a broad basis.” So now, when the term-limited governor need not worry about re-election, “why not get involved in the death penalty debate? Why not?” asked Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty in the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Kansas Federation of College Republicans unanimously voted recently to call for the repeal of the state’s unused 21-year-old death penalty, teeing up the issue for a fresh debate. Another timely reason, given the state’s budget woes: Capital cases can cost taxpayers as much as 70 percent more than non-capital cases. – Rhonda Holman