TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Attorneys argued Tuesday about whether a single word in the state's constitution - "or" - allows its highest court to strike down Kansas' death penalty law again.
The Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the capital punishment law in December 2004, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional in June 2006.
The Kansas court is now considering the appeal of Gavin Scott. He was sentenced to die by injection for the shootings of a couple, Doug and Beth Brittain, in their rural Goddard farmhouse before ransacking it in September 1996. An accomplice was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison.
Scott's attorney, Rebecca Woodman, told the justices that they could invalidate the death penalty law over the same issue that was before the U.S. Supreme Court when it ruled in 2006. She said that's because the state constitution bans "cruel OR unusual" punishment and the federal constitution prohibits "cruel AND unusual punishment."
The small difference in wording means the state constitution offers more protection to defendants than the federal constitution, Woodman said.
"This court, in interpreting its own state constitutional provisions, is not bound by the U.S. Supreme Court decision," said Woodman, a state capital appellate defender. "If it were, the state's highest court, this court, would simply forfeit its power to interpret its own constitution to the federal judiciary."
But Stephen McAllister, the state's solicitor general, said the Kansas court has said repeatedly in past rulings that the differences in the state and federal constitutions' bans on cruel and unusual punishment aren't significant.
"There's no indication that the people at the time the constitution was adopted would have thought that 'or' made any legal difference," McAllister said. "The problem in this case in part is, in essence I guess, is a reluctance to accept what the Supreme Court of the United States resolved."
The Kansas Court is scheduled to release its next opinions Oct. 26, but it's unlikely a decision in Scott's appeal will be ready, given the complexity of the case.
The issue Woodman raised is what happens when jurors conclude the circumstances in favor of imposing a death sentence are equal to the circumstances for imposing a life sentence instead. Kansas law says a jury must recommend death.
"If it's a tie, you die," Woodman said.
Kansas last executed convicted murderers by hanging in 1965. The state was without a death penalty law from 1973 to 1994.
In its December 2004 ruling, the Kansas court said the law represented cruel and unusual punishment and that the "tie" must go to the defendant. But the U.S. Supreme Court's majority rejected the idea that the law favors a "general presumption" for death sentences.
Both rulings interpreted the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Neither dealt with the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights, banning cruel or unusual punishment.
Justice Carol Beier asked Woodman: "What's your position here? Is this methodology - is it cruel or is it unusual?"
Woodman answered: "I would say the court could find either cruel or unusual punishment."
Woodman said the law could be considered cruel because of how jurors must recommend death even if they think there is a "tie" as they weigh various factors, such as the brutality of the crime or the defendant suffering childhood abuse. It could be considered unusual because it is the only death penalty law in the nation with such a provision, she said.
Scholars and advocates said Tuesday that repeated legal challenges aren't unusual as states relatively new to the death penalty, such as Kansas, have the courts settle issues surrounding their laws.
"The number of challenges to the death penalty are unlimited," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
As for individual cases, he said, "Every single one of those has to go to the Kansas Supreme Court and probably several times."
The result typically is a long delay between a law's enactment and a state's first execution.
New Jersey's law took effect in 1982, but the state hasn't executed anyone, and lawmakers are considering repealing it. California's law dates to 1974, but its first execution wasn't until 1992. Even Texas, which leads the nation in executions, waited nine years for an execution, from 1973 to 1982.
The length of the delay depends upon how a state's judges, both in the state and federal court systems, view capital punishment, said Kent Scheidegger. He is legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a Sacramento, Calif., victims' rights group that supports capital punishment.
"If there are minor defects in a statute, courts can either work around them or exploit them to throw out the law," he said. "If a state court wants to say that its state constitutional requirements are different, they can do that."
The Kansas court has reviewed two capital cases. It ordered a resentencing in Crawford County for Gary Kleypas, who killed a Pittsburg State University student in March 1996 after trying to rape her. It ordered a new trial for Michael Lee Marsh II, convicted of killing a Wichita woman and her 19-month-old daughter.
Other cases are pending with the Supreme Court, with attorneys preparing legal briefs. They include the appeals of convicted multiple murderers John E. Robinson Sr. and Jonathan and Reginald Carr.
The case is State v. Gavin D. Scott, No. 83,801.
Anything they can do to hold it up huh?
Technicalities... Seems like whoever is in charge of dispensing justice over there relies on a language that is not their native tongue.
English is the most precise language in the world. That is why most countries have their laws written in it.
It does not end with spelling or grammar. It goes much further.
However, does it take the command of a language to establish guilt?
You're so very right Peter. It all hinges on technicalities and also personal ideals/agendas by judges instead of case law. This in turn bogs down the appeals road and therefore takes years to execute these scumbags. A couple of cases in point
Kenisha Berry who I just posted on about getting another charge for murdering a second baby and throwing it away was on DR for the 1st one of her babies she murdered. I'm reasonably sure that the death verdict was set aside and resentenced to life by the TCCA for the word "SHOULD". The prosecutor said she SHOULD be a future detriment to society if she had any more children instead of WOULD.
Also, if you look at the Supreme court rulings here MOST all are by
5-4 margins either for or against. The reason for that. Politics of course. You can almost predict the 8 justices are going to be deadlocked 4-4. The ninth judge who is Kennedy is almost always the swing vote and ya never know which way he's gonna swing. Pretty much this last term he went 5-4 for the inmates which will lead to the 44 or so inmates sentenced before 1991 to death in just Tx to almost certainly all of them gettin resentencing hearings. If they're sentenced again to death the appeals process starts over.
In the case of Chambers who is the longest serving on DR in Tx he could conceivably be there another 10 yrs on top of the 31 he has served already.
In this Kansas debate, is it cruel or unusual punishment. Well an anti judge point of view might be that laying on a gurney getting juiced is in fact unusual. But from my pro prospective hearing of a 3 yr old child cut up to pieces could lead me to the assumption that how heinous and cruel that crime is that getting juiced is a perfectly usual punishment for it. Basically as I've said it's all legal mumbo jumbo to throw monkey wrenches into the punishment system as it is intended to work. I'm sure we can stay tuned. This won't end even with the Kansas Supremes ruling. Cheers Mate.........Jeff
It is all enough to make one go vigilante.
It is all semantics. Starting with that womanizing Bill Clinton and his stupid statement. "It depends on what the meaning of is is!"
Is meant whatever he wanted it to mean and in this case or means whatever the anti death penalty opponents want it to mean. Who are they kidding? Too many bleeding heart liberals in the world today. I wonder how that stupid death penalty opponent would feel if the murders had happened to her family? She might change her mind pretty quick as to what she wanted to happen to a serial killer, or a multiple murderer, or a serial baby murderer.
Give me a break!!!
Has anyone found an update anywhere on what is going on in Kansas?
It is all enough to make one go vigilante.
Indeed Peter... For me it's those who committ crimes against children....
Appeals keep executions a long way off
Topeka -- Kansas legislators recently completed an exhaustive review of the death penalty that resulted in a 20-20 vote in the Senate that left capital punishment on the books.
But an actual execution in Kansas of someone on Death Row won't happen for years, if ever.
"It's impossible to determine" when an execution will be carried out, said Rebecca Woodman, who is an attorney with the Capital Appellate Defender Office for the State Board of Indigents' Defense Services. "It could be years. It could be never," she said.
Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. Since then, 12 men have been sentenced to death. Of those, one sentence was removed at the request of the district attorney, two have had their sentences vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court and others remain in the early stages of appeals.
The appeals process in death penalty cases is greater than any other.
A death sentence triggers a mandatory review by the Kansas Supreme Court. After that there are other avenues of review, and then there are appeals before the federal judiciary, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For example, the first man sentenced to death in Kansas after reinstatement of the penalty was Gary Kleypas, who was convicted in 1997 of the rape and slaying of Pittsburg State University student Carrie Williams.
His death sentence was overturned in 2001 after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that jury instructions were faulty. His sentencing case didn't happen until 2008 when a jury once again recommended the death penalty.
The seven years between the high court ruling in the Kleypas case and another sentencing trial occurred because of another death penalty case -- that of Michael Marsh.
In that case, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty law because of its requirement that when a jury considering capital punishment finds pro and con factors to be equal, it must choose the death penalty. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Kansas Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote.
Now, the Kleypas case is on direct appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. Woodman said it may be years before the court considers the case because of other death penalty cases that have since been put in the pipeline.
Despite the lengthy process, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six supports the death penalty.
"Death penalty litigation should be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint," Six said. "Families of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement officers understand how important this statute is to our criminal justice system. Some crimes are just too heinous and cruel to receive a lesser sentence
Kan. AG's office defends death penalty after challenge posed in Great Bend teen's killing case
* ROXANA HEGEMAN Associated Press
* First Posted: March 20, 2011 - 12:22 pm
*Last Updated: March 20, 2011 - 1:25 pm
WICHITA, Kan. -- Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office is defending the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law from a challenge raised in the case against the Great Bend man accused of killing a teenager whose charred body was found at an asphalt plant.
In preparation for a hearing Tuesday in Great Bend, state prosecutors filed their written responses late Friday afternoon to the death penalty challenge and other motions the defense had mostly filed in January. The move came after questions were raised as to why no written responses to the defense motions had yet been made despite Barton County Judge Hannelore Kitt's standing order requiring the state to do so in the death penalty case against Adam Joseph Longoria.
"I think we are in compliance," Deputy Attorney General Victor Braden said after the filings. "We are ready for Tuesday and we will see how it goes."
Longoria faces capital murder and criminal sodomy charges in the August killing of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt.
The attorneys with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit who represent Longoria, Jeffrey Wicks and Tim Frieden, did not return a message left at their office Friday seeking comment.
Death penalty prosecutions are handled in two phases. First is the trial to determine whether a suspect is guilty. If convicted, the next step is a penalty phase to determine whether the crime warrants the death sentence. In the second phase, jurors consider aggravating factors such as whether a killing was especially heinous and mitigating factors such as whether a defendant lacked a previous significant criminal record.
Longoria's defense has argued the death penalty in the state is unconstitutional because so-called relaxed evidentiary standards allow the government too much leeway in the type of evidence they can present for aggravating factors. The defense also separately challenged the law on the basis that death penalty verdicts are ambiguous and unreliable since they do not require the jury to disclose the considerations that motivated the death sentence and what weight jurors gave to any mitigating evidence.
Defense attorneys also noted the death penalty has been upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court and acknowledged they were filing the request to preserve the issue for future appeals.
The state's responses were faxed to Great Bend so late on Friday that they were not available on the court's website. Braden declined to email the documents, citing a previous court order that had set up the website for public access.
Ron Keefover, chief information officer with the Office of Judicial Administration, told the AP that statutorily in Kansas written responses are due within five days of a motion's filing, although parties are not required to file responses. Keefover, the media liaison for the Great Bend case, acknowledged that in the Longoria case the judge specifically ordered prosecutors to file written responses to all defense motions.
Braden disputed that there was any such five-day response requirement, insisting he could have hand-carried his written motions to court on Tuesday had he wanted to do so.
The death penalty case against Longoria was filed by former Attorney General Steve Six, who personally prosecuted it until losing his election bid. He was assisted in the case by Deputy Attorney General Barry Disney, who also left the state attorney general's office during the transition.
Six has since been nominated by President Barack Obama for a seat on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Disney has accepted a job with the U.S. attorney's office.
Court filings show that when Six was handling the case prosecutors responded in writing within days to defense motions.
Barton County Attorney Doug Matthews said in an email that he has "every confidence" in Braden as well the new attorney general and his staff to handle the prosecution.
"I've attended several meeting with Mr. Braden and the other AG staff who are working on the prosecution of the case, and have been greatly impressed with the time and energy they've committed," Matthews said.
Both Six and Schmidt said during their election campaigns last year that they supported the death penalty.
But the election upset left the attorney general's office scrambling to replace the prosecutors who filed the charges.
Braden took over prosecution of the case in late December during the transition. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Bauch entered his appearance in it last week.
Unlike his predecessor, Schmidt is not personally prosecuting the Longoria case.
"Attorney General Schmidt decided to appoint the head of the criminal division, Vic Braden, a career prosecutor, to lead the case," said Jeff Wagaman, spokesman for the Kansas attorney general's office. "Vic has extensive experience prosecuting homicide cases, and he led the prosecution team in the last death penalty verdict case in Kansas."
This is the link for the Longoria's case : http://off2dr.com/smf/index.php?topic=10055.msg81010#msg81010
Photos : 1. The murderer Adam Joseph Longoria >:(
2. The victim Alicia DeBolt :'(
Are there any updates on this? The last execution took place in 1965. We really need to get rid of some of these scumbags :-X
Posted by: JTiscool
Posted on: Today at 01:48:06 AM
Are there any updates on this? The last execution took place in 1965. We really need to get rid of some of these scumbags :-X
=> Yes my dear JT :) There are some updates about the case of Adam Longoria and you can follow this link (U.S. Crime Related News) :
Thanks for being helpful as always Anne :-*
They need to fry these f*ckers. Over 45 years with no execution is insane (granted the dp might have been off the books for a period of time during thpse 45 years but still) :o :o :o >:( >:( >:( >:
It looks as though Kansas will never use the DP again. It won't be long before they ban it altogether.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
State's execution process ready, waiting
Posted: September 3, 2011 - 2:05pm
By Tim Hrenchir
Death will come at 11 a.m. on their execution date for all Kansas prison inmates condemned for capital murder.
The warden, chaplain and correctional officers serving on an execution strapdown team will enter the condemned inmate's holding cell on the fourth floor of an administration building at Lansing Correctional Facility.
The warden will read the order of execution.
The prisoner will be escorted to the lethal injection chamber on that same floor, strapped onto a gurney and allowed to make a final statement, which the warden will write down to be released later to the media.
Prison officials will confirm there is no reason to stop the execution, then open curtains to the injection chamber so witnesses can watch.
Those steps are part of the 57-page protocol for carrying out executions that the Kansas Department of Corrections has had in place since 2001.
Eight Kansas inmates, all men, face death sentences.
That number would rise by one if an Osage County judge on Oct. 11 follows the guidance a jury provided this past week.
Jurors recommended James Kraig Kahler, 48, be executed for capital murder in the November 2009 gunshot slayings of his estranged wife, their two teenaged daughters and his wife's grandmother.
None of those facing death sentences in Kansas figures to go to the execution gurney any time soon.
This state, where the last execution took place by hanging in 1965, hasn't put anyone to death since its law allowing for capital punishment by lethal injection took effect in 1994.
All inmates currently facing death sentences are pursuing appeals they have yet to exhaust, and none has ever seen an execution date set.
The condemned include Gary Kleypas, who in 1998 became the first person sentenced to death under the current law after he was convicted of the 1996 murder of a Pittsburg State University student.
The Kansas Supreme Court vacated Kleypas' sentence for legal reasons in 2001 before he was again sentenced to death in the same case in 2008.
The inmates with the longest-standing current death sentences are brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, condemned in 2002 for capital murder committed two years earlier in the deaths of three young men and a young woman in Wichita. The Carrs also were sentenced to life imprisonment for a separate, unrelated murder.
Kansas legislators supporting capital punishment have been quick to cite the Carrs' crimes when that topic comes up for debate.
The Kansas Senate in a 20-20 vote in February 2010 rejected a bill that would have abolished the death penalty for murders committed after July 1 of that year while leaving it in place for cases where a death sentence had already been imposed.
A bill that would have made those same moves was introduced this year in the Kansas House but never received a hearing in its Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, Lansing Correctional Facility warden David McCune says the corrections department -- rather than maintaining a specific "death row" -- chooses to keep its capital inmates in administrative segregation at El Dorado Correctional Facility.
McCune said no specific death row was established because the feeling was that the administrative segregation unit at El Dorado was an appropriate security level for inmates being held on a death sentence.
Corrections department spokesman Jan Lunsford said those in administrative segregation, including inmates who aren't facing death sentences, are locked alone in their cells for all but one hour five times a week, when they are allowed to come out and exercise by themselves in a secure pen.
Lunsford said inmates in administrative segregation also are allowed out of the cells in restraints when they are taken to shower alone.
Lunsford said seven of the state's capital inmates are at El Dorado while one -- Scott Cheever, convicted in the 2005 slaying of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels -- is at Lansing. Cheever is at Lansing because victims of his crime are employed at the El Dorado facility, McCune said.
The decision to house capital inmates at one prison and execute them at another was made to benefit staff members who take care of those prisoners on a long-term basis, then-Kansas Corrections Secretary Chuck Simmons told The Topeka Capital-Journal in 2001.
"An execution is something that has a certain amount of impact on all of the staff who participate," Simmons said.
He spoke at a 2001 media event where the state showed reporters the lethal injection chamber it had completed the previous year on the top floor of a four-story administration building at Lansing Correctional Facility. The building previously had been declared structurally unsound and stood vacant for 20 years before the state renovated it.
Corrections officials at the event also displayed an 8-foot-by-10-foot holding cell on the building's top floor where condemned inmates are to spend their final days.
They said each condemned prisoner would be allowed a last meal of either the regular fare served that day to the other inmates at Lansing or something costing no more than $15 from a Lansing restaurant.
Corrections officials said the execution would be witnessed by people in three rooms, including one containing as many as three people invited by the inmate, who would be able to see them through the glass.
They said the inmate wouldn't be able to see those in the other rooms, which would contain family members of the victims and representatives of the news media and the government.
The execution protocol adopted 10 years ago remains in place, Lunsford said.
He provided The Capital-Journal a copy of that protocol. For security reasons, redactions had been made to all or part of 35 of the document's 57 pages.
The protocol calls for a team of Lansing Correctional Facility officials to travel one week before the execution date to the prison where the condemned inmate is being kept.
The inmate then will be transferred to the building housing the lethal injection chamber at Lansing.
Lunsford said the building's fourth floor has gone unused over the past 10 years, through its lower three floors have been used on a daily basis for administrative functions.
On the day of the execution, the protocol calls for an injection team and a strapdown team of corrections department employees to help carry out the sentence. Lunsford said the state has yet to determine which employees will serve on those.
The protocol calls for the injection team to prepare all injection drugs on the morning the sentence is to be carried out.
At execution time, protocol calls for one intravenous tube each to be placed in the right and left arms of the condemned inmate.
The inmate will then be injected with sodium pentothol, to make him unconscious; pancuronium bromide, to halt breathing; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.
The sole American manufacturer of sodium pentothol, also known as sodium thiopenal, announced in January it would no longer produce the drug.
The move was expected to force some states to adopt new drug combinations for lethal injection and to delay further executions, some of which had already been moved back because of the drug's limited supply.
McCune said Friday that the state of Kansas has yet to obtain the chemicals it will need to carry out executions by lethal injection
"We do not stock any of these drugs as they have expiration shelf lives," he said.
Last updated: 6:21 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 23, 2012
Tuesday forum to focus on repeal of state's death penalty law
By RON SYLVESTER
The Wichita Eagle
Published Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, at 6:20 a.m.
As a bill to repeal the death penalty languishes in the Statehouse, a local church-women's group hopes to help revive legislators' interest on the issue.
The United Methodist Women's group at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita is sponsoring a forum on the death penalty Tuesday. It follows a daylong rally last November at Wichita State University by the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which said it is seeing similar programs sprouting up across the state.
"The death penalty has reached a point where it's outdated," said Jeff Wicks, an attorney with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit and one of Tuesday's speakers. "It comes from a time when we didn't have the ability to maintain law and order, as we do now."
The forum hopes to generate interest in House Bill 2323, which would abolish the death penalty in Kansas in favor of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The bill was introduced last February and remains in the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.
Rep. Steve Brunk R-Wichita, chairs the committee and said he doesn't foresee any action on the bill this year.
"We've got a lot of issues before us this session, and so far this hasn't risen to the top 10," Brunk said. "I just don't see it gaining a lot of traction in the legislature."
Strengthening laws on human trafficking has garnered attention as one of this year's top crime-fighting priorities, Brunk said. He also expects lawmakers to focus on the state budget and taxes this session.
"And then there's the immigration bill du jour," Brunk said.
Death penalty opponents say capital punishment is a budget issue that could save the state millions of dollars. Two studies in the past decade show it costs the state about four times as much to pursue the death penalty as it does to keep someone in prison for life.
"It's not just the state, but it costs the county, too," said Donna Schneweis, chair of the board for the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty. "The county bears the brunt of the costs of these prosecutions."
It also doesn't deter people from committing heinous crimes, said Stanley Elms.
Elms spent more than six years under a death sentence in Kansas after being convicted of the 1998 rape and murder of Regina Gray. In 2004, a Sedgwick County judge gave Elms a life sentence in a plea agreement with the state.
"I really don't feel that it's a deterrent in any way," Elms said in an e-mail from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. "If it were successful in that capacity, we wouldn't have any men or women facing the death penalty."
When Elms received his life sentence, prosecutors said it was made to end the decades of waiting on appeals for the victim's family. Gray's family said that they wanted to put the case behind them.
"These cases have effect on families for years, and we are nowhere near carrying out an execution in Kansas," Wicks said.
Kansas revived its death penalty law in 1994 but has not carried out an execution since 1965. Ten men are currently under death sentences in the state.
"They are essentially serving life in prison," Brunk said. "This bill merely wants to take the status quo and codify it."
It's not necessarily the same.
Inmates facing death are kept in isolation cells around the clock. The Kansas Department of Corrections said it costs $1,000 more per year for those inmates than it does for those in the general population.
Elms described his life in prison as "busy." It includes hosting a quarterly news show called "Behind the Walls" broadcast to inmates via closed circuit television. He said he'd interviewed supervisors, such as the warden or director of inmate programs, on what's happening inside the prison.
"It actually gives me the opportunity to show them that I'm an intelligent person with ideas and goals instead of just a number and some bunk space," Elms said.
Schneweis said the lower costs of keeping prisoners alive should be a priority in a state strapped for money.
"State governments are now busy revisiting every policy and program to make sure it's efficient," she said. "Somehow this no-stone-unturned does not reach to the death penalty."
Tuesday January 24, 2012 9:15 PM
Reporter: Parrish Alleman
Email Address: email@example.com
Group Encourages Conversation About The Death Penalty
A local group is trying to encourage conversation about the death penalty, just as the Kansas House of Representatives prepares to vote on a bill that would end capital punishment in the state.
They might as well end it. They have not executed anyone since 1994.
Even for the arson deaths, by a father of his 2 own sons, ages 6 and 8 years old, in Liberal, KS, 5 years ago, they did not go for the death penalty. The bastard had to even confess to get anyone to believe he did it, with an Oklahoma judge, our agency, the kids grandparents, and relatives, all telling the detectives he did it.
Finally 2 years after he murdered the boys, his live in girlfriend got frightened of him and told the police he confessed he did it, and the cops still did not want to charge him with it.
If you want to get away with murder, go to Kansas.
kansas needs to take out the trash! i'm just beyond irritated with whats going on here in arkansas, but hopefully we will resume taking out the trash soon!
Monday, March 12, 2012
Bill abolishing death penalty to get cursory glance
Posted: March 11, 2012 - 3:49pm
By Samantha Foster
A House bill that would abolish the death penalty in Kansas and add the crime of aggravated murder with a sentencing of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole will receive an informational hearing Thursday, but it is doubtful any action will be taken.
Kansas had the death penalty statute until a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck it down, but the court reversed its decision in 1976. Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The state hasn't carried out a death sentence since then, but nine Kansas capital inmates are currently awaiting execution with an additional capital inmate awaiting resentencing.
During the 2011 legislative session, the House bill to repeal the death penalty statute for crimes committed after July 1, 2012, and replace the punishment with life without the possibility of parole never received a hearing by the Federal and State Affairs Committee. Two separate Senate bills would have abolished the death penalty, but neither made it far. During the 2010 legislative session, the Senate was one vote short of passing a death penalty abolishment bill.
The bill, HB 2323, was introduced by the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice on Feb. 11, 2011, before being referred to Federal and State Affairs three days later. It didn't receive a hearing last year, but on Friday, Rep. Pat Colloton's secretary said the bill had been scheduled for an informational hearing before the federal and state affairs committee Thursday. Colloton, a Leawood Republican, is chairwoman of the corrections committee.
The last time an execution was carried out in Kansas was in 1965, when Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickock were hanged by the state for the brutal murders of four members of the Clutter family in 1959 in Holcomb. Truman Capote wrote about the murders in the famous work titled "In Cold Blood." In the same year, George Ronald York and James Douglas Latham were tried and executed in Kansas after a cross country killing spree.
The current death penalty statute was enacted in 1994 when Gov. Joan Finney allowed it to become law without her signature.
The nine inmates awaiting execution in Kansas are:
■ James Kraig Kahler, convicted in October 2011 of murdering his estranged wife, Karen Kahler; two teenage daughters, Lauren and Emily; and Karen's grandmother, Dorothy Wight, in Wight's Burlingame home in November 2009.
■ Douglas Belt, convicted in November 2004 of capital murder, attempted rape and aggravated arson in the killing of Lucille Gallegos in Wichita. According to the Kansas Department of Corrections' KASPER records, he is being held at El Dorado Correctional Facility.
■ Reginald Carr, convicted of capital murder for the December 15, 2000, murders of Jason Befort, Brad Heyka, Heather Muller and Aaron Sander and of first-degree murder for killing Ann Walenta four days before the quadruple murder. He is being held at El Dorado.
■ Jonathan Carr, convicted of the same five murders as his older brother Reginald. He is being held at El Dorado.
■ Scott Cheever, convicted in November 2007 of killing Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels in January 2005. He is being held at Lansing.
■ Sidney John Gleason, convicted in July 2006 in the shooting deaths of Miki Martinez and Darren Wormkey in February 2004. He is being held at El Dorado.
■ Gary Wayne Kleypas, convicted for the 1996 rape and murder of Carrie Williams in Pittsburg. He is being held at El Dorado.
■ John Edward Robinson Sr., convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Izabel Lewicka and Suzette Trouten and of first-degree murder in the case of Lisa Stasi, who disappeared in 1985 and was never found. He is being held at El Dorado.
■ Justin Thurber, sentenced to death for the January 2007 killing of 19-year-old college student Jodi Sanderholm. He is being held at El Dorado.
A 10th death sentence, that of Phillip Cheatham, is under litigation. Cheatham was convicted in September 2005 of one count of capital murder, two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder in the deaths of Gloria Jones and Annette Roberson. A third victim, Annetta Thomas, played dead and survived with 19 gunshot wounds. In 2010 he was granted resentencing, which hasn't yet been completed. He is being held at Lansing Correctional Facility.
Death sentence in 2004 Kansas murders overturned
July 18, 2014
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas' highest court Friday overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of capital murder in connection with the killings a decade ago of a Great Bend woman and her boyfriend after she'd witnessed a robbery.
The state Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Sidney Gleason in Barton County District Court. A 5-2 majority concluded that the presiding trial judge gave flawed instructions to jurors before they considered whether he should be sentenced to lethal injection for the February 2004 murders of Miki Martinez and boyfriend Darren Wornkey.
The justices only narrowly upheld Gleason's convictions for capital murder and other crimes. The key issue was whether Gleason should receive a new trial because a cousin involved in the crimes reneged on a deal to testify against Gleason to escape a death sentence. A 4-3 majority ruled that Gleason's right to a fair trial wasn't violated when the judge had earlier testimony from the cousin read in court after declaring him unavailable as a witness.
A spokesman for Attorney General Derek Schmidt said his office is reviewing the decision and will respond next week.
Sarah Ellen Johnson, a capital appellate defender representing Gleason, said, "Obviously, we're pleased about the death sentence being vacated."
Gleason had been among eight men facing execution in Kansas. The state hasn't executed anyone since reinstating capital punishment in 1994 and the justices have yet to clear the way for any lethal injections.
Prosecutors said Gleason and his cousin, Damien Thompson, were part of a group that robbed and stabbed a 76-year-old man in his Great Bend home in February 2004. Gleason and Thompson were accused of plotting to kill Martinez because she'd been present and they worried about what she would tell police. Authorities said they also planned to murder Wornkey if he got in the way.
Gleason shot Workney several times as he sat in a Jeep outside a home he shared with Martinez, prosecutors said, and they drove Martinez out of town, where Thompson strangled and shot her as Gleason watched. Thompson later agreed to testify against Gleason and was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 25 years. But he refused to testify at Gleason's trial.
Jonathan and Reginald Carr death sentences overturned
Updated Monday, July 28, 2014
The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday overturned death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr, brothers convicted of murdering five people in one of Wichita's most notorious crime sprees.
The state's high court in separate rulings issued Friday unanimously struck down three of each man's four capital murder convictions in the Dec. 15, 2000, execution-style killings of four people in a snow-covered soccer field. A remaining capital murder conviction for each man was upheld by the court, but the death sentence connected to it was vacated after a 6-1 majority said the district court judge who presided over the brothers' trial - the late Paul W. Clark - was in error when he refused to hold separate sentencing proceedings for the men.
Justice Nancy Mortiz disagreed with the decision, saying that separate hearings would not have influenced the outcome because witness testimony, the "unusually egregious facts" of the case and evidence against the Carr brothers was so strong.
In overturning the capital murder convictions, the majority said the instructions to jurors had been flawed because the judge tied those capital murder charges to the rape of the surviving victim rather than the deceased ones. The majority also said three of the capital murder charges were duplicates of the first.
The court on Friday also narrowly rejected the brothers' contention, on a 4-3 vote, that all their convictions should be overturned because they were not given separate trials.
Justices affirmed 25 of Jonathan Carr's 43 convictions; 32 of Reginald Carr's 50 convictions were upheld.
The case has been remanded to Sedgwick County District Court for further hearings.
During a news conference held Friday in response to the rulings, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said his office is "committed to upholding the law and ensuring the safety" of Sedgwick County citizens. In response to a question, he told reporters he would seek the death penalty against the brothers a second time.
"The results of the decision by the Supreme Court creates one certainty: Jonathan and Reginald Carr will not be released from prison. The conviction for capital murder for each defendant carries with it a life sentence."
Under Kansas law, capital murder can be charged under several circumstances, including where a killing is intentional and premeditated and occurs during or after some sex crimes.
Today prosecutors can ask for the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole eligibility. But the no-parole option was not on the books at the time of the Carr brothers' crimes, Bennett said Friday.
Earlier in the day, Bennett and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a joint statement saying that they are "carefully reviewing" the opinions and will "work closely together in the coming days and weeks to determine the next steps that must be taken in these cases."
"All options will be considered," Bennett and Schmidt said in the statement. "We are committed to seeking justice in this case for the victims, their families and the community."
The rulings sparked outrage across Kansas after they were handed down around 9:30 a.m. Friday. Gov. Sam Brownback called the brothers' crimes "brutal and heinous" in a news release and said that the high court's decisions "unnecessarily reopen the wounds from ... a tragic moment in Wichita history."
Brutal crime spree
The brothers were convicted in 2002 of terrorizing, robbing, sexually assaulting, kidnapping and murdering a group of young people on Dec. 15, 2000, as part of a seven-day crime spree across Wichita.
Jason Befort, 26, Brad Heyka, 27, Aaron Sander, 29, and Heather Muller, 25, were killed in an execution-style shooting after being forced to kneel in a frozen soccer field at 29th Street North and Greenwich.
A fifth victim, a 25-year-old woman who was shot in the back of the head and left for dead, survived and ran naked through the snow to a nearby house for help. Her escape tipped off a manhunt for the killers, who were arrested later that day. She later became a key witness at the brothers' trial.
Jonathan Carr, now 34, and Reginald Carr, 36, were in their 20s when the crimes occurred.
Bennett said in his news conference Friday that both sides can seek appeals to the court's rulings. He said it was too early to say whether decisions in the cases would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"For anyone who has a sentence vacated ... you have to have a re-sentencing hearing," Bennett said. "You just can't do it with a document. There has to be another hearing where a judge imposes the other sentence."
It was unclear immediately after the rulings when those hearings would take place. Bennett said the next step for his office would be to read through and study the separate opinions issued in the case. Combined, the documents are nearly 500 pages.
Larry Heyka, the father of murder victim Brad Heyka, expressed disappointment and said he was struggling to make sense of the court's rulings.
"It seems like it takes a lot of time to get through these things, but we will do whatever it takes," said Heyka, who is from Council Grove. "Hopefully going forward, we will all understand what these rulings really mean."
In addition to the capital murder counts, the high court on Friday reversed several rape and attempted rape convictions that the Carrs received for forcing their victims to engage in sex acts with one another before the slayings.
Among other convictions affirmed by the high court Friday for each brother were first-degree felony murder in the Dec. 11, 2000, fatal shooting of 55-year-old Linda "Ann" Walenta during an apparent robbery and carjacking; and attempted first-degree murder, aggravated kidnappings, aggravated robberies and sex crimes tied to the quadruple homicide on Dec. 15.
Jonathan and Reginald Carr were tried and convicted in a joint trial in Sedgwick County District Court in 2002, despite requests to separate their trials. Jurors found Reginald Carr guilty on 50 counts; his brother was convicted of 43.
Both men were given the death penalty on each of the four counts of capital murder. Reginald Carr also was sentenced to one hard-20 life sentence, plus another 471/2 years in prison, according to a news release from the Kansas Judicial Center. Jonathan Carr received one hard-20 life sentence, plus an additional 41 years.
In their appeals to the Kansas Supreme Court, lawyers for the brothers argued that the Carrs should get new, separate trials because they damaged each other's defenses when they were tried jointly by Judge Clark, who died in 2011. Jonathan Carr's appellate attorney, Sara Ellen Johnson, said during oral arguments held before the high court on Dec. 17 that Reginald Carr engaged in courtroom "antics" that turned jurors against both brothers during their jury trial.
Lawyers also challenged the constitutionality of the Kansas death penalty law and argued that the district court judge's decision to seat a pro-death-penalty juror who eventually became foreman tainted the trial. The attorneys also said that the trial should have been moved out of Wichita because of media coverage of the crimes.
In its ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court identified 11 errors made during the sentencing phase of the Carr brothers' trial, but a majority said that the mistakes combined "pales in comparison to the strength of evidence against the defendants."
Kansas attorney general to appeal capital rulings
August 8, 2014
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Friday that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate death sentences for two brothers over the fatal shootings of four people in a snow-covered soccer field and for another man convicted of killing a couple.
Schmidt notified the state Supreme Court that he is appealing its rulings in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr and Sidney Gleason.
The Carr brothers were sentenced to lethal injection for the four killings, which occurred in Wichita in December 2000 and followed dozens of other crimes, including robbery and rape. Gleason was sentenced to die over the couple's deaths, in the central Kansas town of Great Bend in February 2004.
"In each case, we doubt the U.S. Constitution compelled the Kansas court to set aside the death sentences that were recommended by juries of the defendants' peers," Schmidt said in a statement.
Schmidt's office said the appeals will be filed by Oct. 16.
An attorney who represented both Gleason and Jonathan Carr did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
The Kansas court hasn't upheld a death sentence since the state enacted a new capital punishment law in 1994, and the state's last legal executions, by hanging, were in 1965. It has five other men on death row.
The rulings in the Carr brothers' cases prompted criticism from the Republican-dominated Legislature because the crimes were among the most notorious in the state since the 1959 killings of a western Kansas farm family that inspired the classic book, "In Cold Blood."
Authorities said the Carr brothers broke into a Wichita home and forced the three men and two women inside to have sex with each other and repeatedly raped the women. The brothers forced them to withdraw money from ATMs before taking them to the field, where one woman survived a gunshot wound to the head and ran naked through the snow for help.
The Kansas court ruled that the brothers should have had separate sentencing hearings, instead of a joint one.
In Gleason's case, the same court said the presiding judge gave flawed instructions to jurors about weighing evidence in favor and against recommending a death sentence. One victim was a woman who'd witnessed a robbery in which he was involved. The other was her boyfriend, and authorities said Gleason shot him as he sat in a Jeep.
Notorious serial killer John Robinson appeals death sentence to Kansas Supreme Court
Mar 24, 2015
TOPEKA, Kan. - Notorious serial killer John Robinson Sr. asked the Kansas Supreme Court to appeal his death sentence.
The appeal came more than a decade after his trial ended in a death sentence in 2003.
Robinson, 71, stuffed the bodies of several victims into barrels in both Missouri and on his Linn County, Kan. property.
Robinson pleaded guilty for the five women he killed in Missouri but, on Tuesday, he appealed the three killings in Kansas.
A Kansas jury convicted and sentenced him to die in 2003 for the deaths of 27-year-old Suzette Trouten, of Newport, Mich., and 21-year-old Izabela Lewicka, of West Lafayette, Ind.
He also received a life sentence for the murder of a third woman, Lisa Stasi, whose body was never found.
Detectives found Stasi's daughter alive in 2000 in Chicago. Robinson's relatives adopted her, unbeknownst to them, in a sham adoption.
The state's high court on Tuesday heard three hours of legal challenges involving the case of 71-year-old Robinson.
Attorneys have written hundreds of pages of legal arguments, and Robinson's attorneys have raised dozens of issues in the appeal.
One issue Robinson's attorney, Paige Nichols, argued was that a juror brought a Bible into the death penalty deliberations.
Nichols told the high court a person can use the Bible for reflection and devotions but that only the law should be used to help a juror come to a verdict.
"The juror did say he was searching the Bible. The fact, he bookmarked it and then took it into the courthouse the next day also suggests he was not simply consulting it for comfort or sustenance but rather to aid in his deliberations," Nichols argued.
The state said the judge quickly had the Bible removed before a death sentence was recommended.
The Kansas Supreme Court could take months to decide whether Robinson stays on death row or gets a new trial.