The Eighth Amendment of the U.,S. Constitution states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
TOPEKA – When the U.S. Supreme Court begins its annual term next week, it will hear oral arguments in three Kansas capital murder cases, including one from Barton County, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Monday. In all three instances, the arguments will center around constitutional questions.
On Oct. 7, the high court will hear the State’s appeals in Kansas v. Reginald Carr, Kansas v. Jonathan Carr, and Kansas v. Sidney Gleason. The Carr cases arise from murders in Sedgwick County in December 2000 and the Gleason case from murders in Barton County in February 2004.
In 2014, in each of the three cases, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the defendant’s guilt but overturned the death sentences that had been recommended by the jury and imposed by the trial court, Schmidt said. Kansas appealed, and in March the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the Kansas Supreme Court’s decisions.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on two separate constitutional questions. At 10 a.m., Schmidt will argue that the instructions given to the juries did not violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an issue present in all three cases. At 11 a.m., Solicitor General Steve McAllister will argue that conducting a joint sentencing proceeding for the two Carr defendants did not violate the Eighth Amendment.
In the meantime, Schmidt said his office is preparing arguments for the proceedings.
A former Topekan, Gleason was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2006 for the 2004 shooting deaths of Mikiala “Miki” Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Barton County. At the time of the murders, Gleason was on parole following a conviction of attempted voluntary manslaughter.
Gleason, who was from Lyons at the time, faced lethal injection for the February 2004 killings of Martinez and Wornkey. Prosecutors said Martinez witnessed Gleason’s participation in the robbery of a 76-year-old man, and Gleason and Thompson worried about what she might tell police.
Authorities also said they also planned to kill her boyfriend if he got in the way. The killings took place a matter of days after the robbery.
Workney was shot while he sat in his Jeep outside his home. Martinez was taken to a rural area and strangled and shot.
Thompson avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to Martinez’s murder, receiving a life sentence.
In July 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Gleason’s convictions, but reversed his death sentence.
The Carr brothers were sentenced to death for four killings, which occurred in Wichita in December 2000 and followed dozens of other crimes, including robbery and rape.
The Carrs were convicted following a December 2000 crime spree involving multiple murders and various sex crimes. They were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the execution-style murder of four people in an east Wichita soccer field following a home invasion.
In July 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld one conviction of capital murder with respect to both Jonathan and Reginald, but reversed their death sentences.
The state then appealed the decision to overturn the death sentences to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed this past March to hear all three appeals. The issues the U.S. Supreme Court will consider include jury instruction and separate sentencing hearings.
Kansas last participated in oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court in January, when it successfully argued that state antitrust laws were not preempted by federal law and could be applied to alleged price-fixing in the natural gas marketplace.