September 2, 2014

Kansas AG proposes ‘Hard 50’ legislation

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt formally recommended legislation to repair the damage done to the Kansas ‘Hard 50’ sentencing law by a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.
In a letter to legislators, Schmidt conveyed the draft of a bill that would overhaul the sentencing procedure for new “Hard 50” cases and would modify the existing procedure for pending cases in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Court ruled in June that juries, not judges, must make the findings upon which a “Hard 50” sentence is based.
Schmidt said the legislation was drafted by his office in close consultation with local prosecutors throughout the state. The Kansas County and District Attorneys Association has formally endorsed the bill draft.
“We believe this bill draft would remedy the constitutional problem the Supreme Court identified and would maximize our ability to continue using the ‘Hard 50’ law,” Schmidt said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature as this proposal receives consideration.”
For the past 15 years, Kansas has had a “Hard 50” law that requires for certain convicted murderers, whose crimes are particularly aggravated, to wait 50 years before first being eligible for parole rather than the usual 25 years. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alleyne v. United States, issued June 17, called into question the procedure Kansas uses for imposing a Hard 50 sentence. The ruling came too late for the Legislature to amend Kansas law during its regular legislative session, so Gov. Sam Brownback has called the Legislature back for a special session beginning Sept. 3 to repair the problem and reinstate the “Hard 50.”
Schmidt also announced that he has launched a new page on his office website to make available to the public information about the “Hard 50” law and the upcoming special legislative session. The bill draft and letter of transmission are posted there. The page is available at www.ag.ks.gov/special-session.

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