Kansas and Missouri should put an end to death penalty.

Sadly, Missouri and Kansas are not among the states whose lawmakers have understood what an unjust and costly system capital punishment is. Measures to abolish or even temporarily halt the death penalty have gone nowhere over the years in both legislatures.

So it's time for citizens and enlightened lawmakers to plan ways to make this matter of life and death a top priority in these two states for the next legislative sessions.

... Both states continue to support capital punishment even though the evidence is clear that operating a system designed to execute prisoners is much more costly than sending them to prison without the possibility of parole when convicted of heinous crimes.

In Kansas, 13 men have been sentenced to death since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1994, but no one has been executed.

A 2003 study calculated that the litigation and incarceration expenses of capital cases are 70 percent higher than what it costs the state to seek justice in murder cases in which the death penalty isn't in play.

... So if this were merely a matter of economics, the death penalty should be tossed out.

But, of course, it's much more than that. Despite the costliness of capital litigation, the prospects for error are much too high.

The Innocence Project reports that, through the use of DNA evidence, 18 death row prisoners so far have been exonerated. They already had served a total of 229 years behind bars in 11 different states. That should never happen. Nor should execution of the innocent, but the only way to be positive it doesn't is to ban capital punishment. ...

There's a compelling argument that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. What's incontestable is that by permitting the death penalty the United States is keeping company with such countries as Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Uganda. ...

Surely it's time for the U.S. to join the abolition movement. Kansas and Missouri should follow Maryland's recent example and become the 19th and 20th states to adopt a sane and civilized approach to this matter.

-- The Kansas City Star