TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned the death sentences of two brothers convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of four people whose bodies were found in a snow-covered Wichita soccer field in 2000.
The state Supreme Court on Friday also struck down three of the four capital murder conviction each against Jonathan and Reginald Carr. But it upheld one capital murder conviction each.
Their cases will return to Sedgwick County District Court for further hearings and a new sentencing.
The court's majority overturned the death sentences because, it said, the presiding judge failed to have separate proceedings for each brother.
In overturning most of the capital convictions, the majority said the instructions to jurors were flawed.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett released the following statement on the Kansas Supreme Court’s decisions in State v. Reginald Carr and State v. Jonathan Carr: “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.”
The KCADP also issed a statement after the court's 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."