Capital Punishment in Kansas and Memories From an Oklahoma Death Row Exoneree
Oklahoma death row exoneree Curtis McCarty recently sat down with Wichita Public Radio to discuss his wrongful conviction and life behind bars for a segment that focused on capital punishment in Kansas. Despite capital punishment being legal in the state, Kansas hasn’t executed an inmate since 1965.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Four years later, the high court reversed the ruling and allowed states to carry out executions under certain guidelines. Since Kansas reinstated the death penalty a decade ago, there have since been 85 charges of capital murder and 13 convictions, nine of which still stand.
Just across the state border, McCarty spent more than 20 years behind bars in Oklahoma. Since 1976, 111 individuals convicted of murder have been executed by lethal injection in that state. Had it not been for DNA evidence, McCarty could have been added to the list.
McCarty was exonerated in 2007 after serving 21 years — including 19 years on death row — for a 1982 Oklahoma City murder he didn’t commit. He was convicted twice and sentenced to death three times based on prosecutorial misconduct and testimony from a forensic analyst whose lab misconduct has contributed to at least two other convictions later overturned by DNA evidence. Before DNA proved his innocence, McCarty spent most of his prison sentence in a 9 x 9 cell.
McCarty says in his interview with Wichita Public Radio: “Imagine being locked in your bathroom for a decade. . . . It’s that kind of existence, but surrounded by violence, indifference and mental illness in the people around you. . . . I had to get over that shock, the disbelief that I’m not supposed to be here. . . . Because nobody wants to here that and the truth is, that’s where you live now, that’s your home.”
Listen to the full interview
More about McCarty’s case
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