WICHITA, Kan. - Several state and local officials reacted to the ruling Friday from the Kanas Supreme Court, to reverse the death penalty sentences of the Carr brothers.
Statement from former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston:
"I am devastated with the opinion. It leaves unresolved the deaths of three of the four citizens as if they never occurred under this court's ruling. I am devastated for the victims' families because we worked long and hard to put on the best case. According to the court's ruling, for all intents and purposes, the Carrs could have taken a machine gun to Downtown Wichita and killed scores of people and only received one conviction of capital murder."
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett released the following statement:
“We are carefully reviewing the two opinions, which together constitute nearly 500 pages and address numerous legal issues. Some issues were decided favorably for the state, and others were not. We 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. We are committed to seeking justice in this case for the victims, their families and the community.”
Kansas Governor 'Stunned' by Capital Case Ruling
Gov. Sam Brownback says he's stunned by Kansas Supreme Court decisions overturning the death sentences of two brothers for a December 2000 robbery, rape and kidnapping spree that ended with four fatal shootings in Wichita field.
Brownback said Friday that the decisions in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr unnecessarily reopen the wounds from what he called a tragic moment in Wichita history.
In overturning the death sentences, the court's majority said the brothers should have had separate sentencing proceedings to determine whether they faced lethal injection or life in prison. The court also overturned three of each man's four capital murder convictions.
Brownback called the crimes brutal and heinous and said the Carrs were convicted by a jury of their peers before an elected trial-court judge.
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.
Are state supreme court justices too insulated from street violence?
There's a well-known dysfunctional mindset that I've heard called "Ivory Tower Syndrome." It amounts to people who are not in danger themselves second-guessing those who either are in danger, or else are closer to the endangered people. Persons afflicted with Ivory Tower Syndrome intellectualize much, and they moralize much, and they stand on principles much, much more than life in the real world permits those exposed to its rigors to do.
Perhaps no one should be eligible for a position as a judge unless he or she has served a year, incognito, as a mock prisoner in a real state prison. The lessons learned, and the discipline acquired, would probably be quite valuable to them when considering these "hard" cases.