The U.S. Supreme Court today sided with Kansas and ruled that the death sentences imposed on two capital murder defendants in Wichita and one in Great Bend did not violate the U. S. Constitution.
In an 8-1 ruling, the high court rejected as incorrect the Kansas Supreme Court’s conclusion that the federal Constitution barred the death sentences recommended by juries in Kansas v. Jonathan Carr, Kansas v. Reginald Carr and Kansas v. Sidney Gleason.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office handled the state’s appeal, said, “Justice was served today in the United States Supreme Court.”
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, whose office prosecuted the Carr cases in the trial court and worked with the attorney general’s office on the appeal, said, “We are very pleased for the victims and their families.”
On July 18, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in Kansas v. Gleason and on July 25, 2014, did the same in both Carr cases, citing federal constitutional error. Schmidt appealed those decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the nation’s highest court agreed to review the Kansas decisions and to address two questions presented under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On October 7, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the state’s appeal. Schmidt argued one question on behalf of the state, and Kansas Solicitor General Steve McAllister argued the other.
Today’s ruling settles the federal constitutional issues that were incorrectly identified by the Kansas Supreme Court. The cases now return to the Kansas Supreme Court, which will determine whether additional proceedings are necessary.