TOPEKA – The State of Kansas will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review three recent Kansas Supreme Court decisions that overturned death sentences imposed on two convicted murderers in Wichita and one in Great Bend, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
“We are not convinced that the Kansas court’s application of federal constitutional requirements is correct, so we are requesting review of all three cases by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Schmidt said. “In each case, we doubt the U.S. Constitution compelled the Kansas court to set aside the death sentences that were recommended by juries of the defendants’ peers.”
On July 18, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the capital murder conviction of Sidney Gleason but vacated Gleason’s death sentence. One week later, on July 25, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a single capital murder conviction each for Reginald and Jonathan Carr but similarly vacated both of their death sentences.
By law, the attorney general’s office represents Kansas on matters before the U.S. Supreme Court. Schmidt said his office is working closely with Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett on the two Carr appeals. The Gleason appeal is being handled solely by the attorney general’s office, which also prosecuted the case in the trial court.
“On behalf of the victims and their families, I believe it is incumbent on the state to seek review of these decisions to ensure every effort has been made to preserve the jury’s verdict and uphold justice for the citizens of Kansas.” Bennett said. “With Attorney General Schmidt, I look forward to the opportunity to bring these cases to this nation’s highest court.”
The attorney general today formally notified the Kansas Supreme Court of his decision to appeal, putting further proceedings in all three cases on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review the cases. Last term, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear five percent of requests for review filed by state attorneys general.
A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court whether to hear the state’s appeal in any or all these three cases could come later this year.
The Gleason case
Gleason was convicted in 2006 for the deaths of Mikiala “Miki” Martinez and Darren Wornkey. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office handled the prosecution for Gleason and his accomplice and cousin Damien Thompson during the trial in Great Bend.
Gleason, who is from Lyons, 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.
The Carr brothers
Jonathan and Reginald Carr were convicted in 2002 of terrorizing, robbing, sexually assaulting, kidnapping and murdering a group of young people on Dec. 15, 2000, as part of a seven-day crime spree across Wichita.
Jason Befort, 26, Brad Heyka, 27, Aaron Sander, 29, and Heather Muller, 25, were killed in an execution-style shooting after being forced to kneel in a frozen soccer field at 29th Street North and Greenwich.
A fifth victim, a 25-year-old woman who was shot in the back of the head and left for dead, survived and ran naked through the snow to a nearby house for help. Her escape tipped off a manhunt for the killers, who were arrested later that day. She later became a key witness at the brothers’ trial.