Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Harsher penalties for murder attempts could prevent deaths

1/10/2014

A conviction for capital murder could result in a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole or the death penalty. The penalties are dramatically less for those who unsuccessfully try to commit capital murder.

Plans are afoot by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Indpendence, to propose legislation increasing penalties for those convicted of attempted capital murder to a “Hard 25” life sentence. Those convicted of this type of crime today might be sentenced to as little as 12 years or 147 months based on the defendant’s criminal history.

A conviction for capital murder could result in a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole or the death penalty. The penalties are dramatically less for those who unsuccessfully try to commit capital murder.

Plans are afoot by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Indpendence, to propose legislation increasing penalties for those convicted of attempted capital murder to a “Hard 25” life sentence. Those convicted of this type of crime today might be sentenced to as little as 12 years or 147 months based on the defendant’s criminal history.

Good behavior while in prison could result in an even shorter sentence, such as in the case of Kyle Flack who at the age of 19 shot a 47-year old Ottawa man five times and now is in jail charged with first-degree murder in the quadruple homicide that occurred outside of Ottawa in May 2013. The victim, Steven Dale Free, miraculously survived the shooting in 2005 only to die several years later from lung cancer, with shrapnel from the shooting still in his body, according to Herald archives.

Imagine being the victim of an intentional and premeditated murder attempt that somehow went awry and the perpetrator gets a minimal sentence and consequently can be released from prison to possibly offend again. The killing of a law enforcement officer, killing of more than one person, contract killing or the killing of a victim during the commission of kidnapping for ransom and serious sex offenses all qualify as capital murder. A failed attempt to commit any of those acts ought to be dealt with punishment just as proportionately severe as for those who get the job done.

Steven Free’s sister knows the pain of having a family member nearly killed and believes Flack should have received a stiffer sentence for shooting her brother.

“He got five years for trying to murder my brother — that’s one year for each bullet he put in him. And he didn’t even serve the full time. That’s not right,” Stephanie Ingram said in a previous Herald story. “Steve got a raw deal.”

“[Flack] didn’t even pay back enough restitution to cover Steve’s funeral [costs],” she said. “And now Steve is dead, Flack is off the hook for paying any more of it.” Ingram said in May she feared that Flack would not hesitate to kill again if provoked.

If Flack is convicted in the quadruple homicide he might earn stringent enough punishment to prevent him from shooting others again. His case alone — though his 2005 crime didn’t even reach the level of being labeled an attempted “captial” murder — provides enough reason for legislators to strengthen sentencing guidelines for crimes of this nature.

A hearing on Schmidt and King’s effort is expected next week during legislators’ first week in session in Topeka. The proposed legislation makes good sense and should be approved.

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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