Category Archives: Kansas Cases

Carr Brothers – Kansas Supreme Court Ruling

 

We, at the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty (KCADP), continue to be shocked and horrified by the deeds of the Carr brothers, who were convicted in 2002 of multiple Wichita murders. Like every murder that impacts our communities, such crimes deserve severe punishment.

 

Our hearts break for the victims and their families who want to put these events behind them. Grievous wounds are reopened every time the crime gets new media attention or there is a new development related to the case.

 

KCADP’s mission is repeal of the death penalty and since Kansas has the alternative of life in prison without any possibility of parole for capital cases, we believe it is the appropriate sentence. Life without parole is a severe sentence that protects the community without the long, difficult and emotionally wrenching legal process associated with capital cases.

 

Further, many Kansans believe that life is sacred and that state-sanctioned killings are wrong for many reasons. Regardless of faith and philosophical differences, analysis of use of the death penalty shows it is not good public policy, costs more than life without parole, does not have a deterrent effect and increases the suffering of victims’ families.

The Death Penalty in Kansas…I’ve got Issues with that!

 

Did you happen to miss KTWU’s latest “I’ve Got Issues” program, when the death penalty in Kansas was discussed?

Bummed you didn’t get to see the interview with Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking?”

Disappointed that you missed our very own Mary Sloan and Ron Wurtz talk about the benefits of repealing the death penalty in Kansas?

Ron from IGI Mary from IGI

Don’t worry you can watch the entire episode right here!

 

Kansas Supreme Court Overturns Death Sentence in Cheever Case

 

The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously overturned the death sentence and ordered a new trial for Scott Cheever today.

 

The death of Sheriff Matthew Samuels was a tragic loss for his family, Greenwood County and the Kansas law enforcement community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the many Kansans whose lives are impacted by this decision today.

 

This action by the court marks the fourth death sentence to be overturned in the mandatory appeals process due to errors made during the trials.

 

“The Kansas Supreme Court has now overturned every death sentence in the four cases that have made it to this stage of the appeals process,” said Donna Schneweis, the Board Chair of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

 

“In a death penalty trial, even a small mistake can mean the difference between life and death,” said Schneweis. “This case is another example of just how flawed the Kansas death penalty is. We can’t eliminate the possibility of error. It’s time for Kansas to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.”

 

Lawrence Journal-World publishes in-depth account of Kansas felony exoneree

 

Kansas is not immune to the problems that other states face within the justice system. The first Kansan exonerated through DNA evidence after serving time in a Kansas prison granted an exclusive look into the challenges he has faced since being punished for a crime for which he was innocent.

 

Of the more than 270 people in the United States exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989, 75 percent were originally convicted based in part on mistaken eyewitness identification, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based organization that assists with exonerations and DNA testing.

 

To read this powerful story, please click here.

 

 

KCADP Statement on Kahler’s Death Sentence

The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty released the following statement after James Kraig Kahler was sentenced to death today:

 

We regret the loss of the lives of Karen, Emily, and Lauren Kahler and Dorothy Wight.  Sentencing Kraig Kahler to death will not restore their lives.  It will not bring peace to the remaining family members or the traumatized local community.  Public safety could have been achieved with the alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

 

For more information, please contact the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty at 785-235-2237 or infoatksabolitiondotorg.

 

 

Gavin Scott Moves off Death Row

Gavin Scott, sentenced to death in a 1996 double homicide, has reached a plea agreement that drops the death penalty and sentences him instead to two consecutive life sentences. His original sentence was overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court in May 2008 and he has been awaiting re-sentencing since that date. Scott will not be eligible for parole for at least 85 years.

State to Seek Death Penalty in Aguirre Case

On March 22, 2010, the state of Kansas announced that it would seek the death penalty against Luis Aguirre in the October 2009 deaths of 18-year-old Tanya Maldonado and their son, 25-month-old Juan Maldonado. Aguirre, who has entered a plea of not guilty, has been held in the Riley County Jail since last October. This is the first time the death penalty has been sought in a case in Riley County since the penalty was reinstated in 1994. The trial is not expected to take place before early 2011.

Cheatham to Get New Sentencing Hearing

On February 22, 2010, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mark Braun issued a decision that will give Phillip Cheatham a new sentencing hearing. His attorney, Dennis Hawver, had testified at an earlier hearing that he believed he provided ineffective counsel. Hawver, who had never tried a capital case, stated that he hadn’t talked to other defense attorneys about trying capital cases; wasn’t trained to defend a client in a death penalty case; hadn’t seen a capital defense before he represented Cheatham; hadn’t investigated the whereabouts of a man who would be an alibi witness for Cheatham; and didn’t take any statements from witness before the trial, including one shooting victim who survived. Cheatham had argued that his attorney provided ineffective representation during his entire trial, but the judge ruled that representation was adequate during the trial, but not during the penalty phase. Therefore, his convictions in two murders will stand. Since under Kansas law, only a jury may recommend a death sentence, a new jury will be convened to decide whether Cheatham should be sentenced to death.

Marsh Case Resolved in New Agreement

On Friday, April 3, 2009, in Wichita, Michael Marsh entered an Alford plea in regard to the charges pending against him. Marsh’s capital murder conviction and aggravated arson conviction had been vacated by the State Supreme Court in 2004. Marsh entered a guilty plea to reduced charges. The plea was accepted by Judge Owens, and Marsh was sentenced to life in prison.

The Coalition issued the following statement.

The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty is pleased that justice has been served by the prison sentence alternative to the death penalty in this case. The prison sentence handed down to Mr. Marsh is both lengthy and appropriate for his crimes.

The history of this case indicates how error prone the death penalty system is in Kansas. We are back in Court today because of the original capital murder conviction was voided by the State Supreme Court due to the trial judge’s error in regard to evidence.

So, almost 13 years after the deaths of Marry Ane and Mary Elizabeth Pusch, this case ended in a lengthy sentence. The families involved have been subjected to numerous hearings each with the potential to reopen painful wounds. We hope that given the lengthy sentence Mr. Marsh will serve, the families will have the support of their friends and community as they continue their journey toward healing.

And finally, it should be noted that this case again illustrates the reality of the impact of prosecutorial discretion operative in Kansas death penalty cases. The first time around, the District Attorney asked for a sentence of death. This time, the choice was for the alternative (a lengthy prison sentence) in a murder case with two victims. However in a recent case in a neighboring county, the prosecutor chose to ask for the death penalty in a case with a single victim. This disparity is evidence of the arbitrariness present in how the Kansas death penalty is applied.

Thurber Receives Death Sentence

On March 20, 2009, Cowley County District Judge Jim Pringle imposed a sentence of death on Justin Thurber, following the recommendation of the jury which had earlier convicted him of capital murder in the January 2007 death of Jodi Sanderholm. Pringle also sentenced Thurber to 176 months for aggravated kidnapping.

The judge rejected a defense motion for a new trial, ruling that enough evidence was presented for the jury to conclude that the crime was committed in a heinous, atrocious, and cruel manner. The judge also denied a motion that argued Thurber is mentally retarded and therefore not subject to the death penalty.