TOPEKA (KSNT) – Several Kansas state legislators say they will try again in the upcoming session to push through a measure to expedite death penalty appeals.
The announcement comes on the heels of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling last week which overturned the death sentences of Johnathan and Reginald Carr who were convicted of shooting five people, killing four of them, in Wichita in 2000.
The high court ruled the two should have been given separate trials when they were convicted of the brutal murders 14 years ago.
The court upheld the convictions, dismissed the death sentences against both and because jurors had been improperly instructed before their deliberations the case was s3nt back to Sedgewick County District Court.
“It shouldn’t take 12 years to decide a death penalty appeal,” says State Senator Jeff King (R) Independence.
For that reason, King and three other lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation, defeated last session, to speed up death penalty appeals in Kansas.
“We want to make sure,” King tells Kansas First News, “that victim’s families don’t have to go through 12 years of agonizing wait again and to make sure that due process is done.”
King thinks the updated version of the bill, and outrage over the Carr decision, will get the bill passed in the coming year.
The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty opposed the first bill, and will oppose the rewrite.
In a statement to Kansas First News, Executive Director mary Sloan syas “Shortening appeals is dangerous given how long it takes for evidence of innocence to emerge.”
Analysts say the death penalty, which cuts across ideology as well as political party lines, is one of the most complicated issues in Kansas.
Kansas First News political analyst Bob Beatty says “and in some cases that means that some legislators would rather keep the status quo, given some of the complications of this legislation.”
The Sedgewick County District Attorney has yet to say what happens next with the Carr brothers.
The last time Kansas executed someone was in 1965 by hanging. The state Supreme Court has yet to approve a death sentence since the law was revised in 1994.