TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved changes to a state law that automatically imposes a 50-year sentence on some convicted murderers, a move sparked by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a similar law in Virginia. Tuesday's 122-0 vote came on the first day of a special session called by Governor Sam Brownback to fix the state's so-called Hard 50 law. The legislation — which puts the sentencing process in the hands of juries — now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it Wednesday. Kansas adopted the Hard 50 sentence in 1990, after the Legislature rejected the death penalty but sought to ensure long prison terms for certain murders.
KPR carried another version of this story, focusing on the "Hard 50" law's revision hearing before a House committee earlier today (TUE):
A Kansas House committee today (TUE) passed a proposed fix for the state’s Hard 50 sentencing law. The law allows judges to sentence certain convicted murderers to at least 50 years in prison without eligibility for parole. The House's proposed revision would change the process so that juries also play a part in doling out Hard 50 sentences. The revised law would also attempt to preserve the Hard 50 sentences currently being served by prisoners. Lawrence attorney Jessica Glendening told the committee that making changes retroactive is unconstitutional, and the bill could lead to costly appeals. But Stephen Howe, Johnson County district attorney, says the bill can help keep past Hard 50 sentences intact.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court case raised questions about the constitutionality of the state’s old Hard 50 law. The full Kansas House is likely to debate the bill today (TUE).