A former Prairie Village doctor in prison for the 1995 arson fire that killed two of her children is not entitled to a new sentencing hearing, a judge ruled Thursday.
Debora Green had wanted her sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years vacated and replaced through a new sentencing hearing.
Green maintained that recent Kansas and U.S. Supreme Court cases have established that factors used to enhance some sentences, such as the Hard 40 term she received, must be determined by a jury and not a judge.
But Johnson County District Judge Brenda Cameron found that those rulings could not be applied retroactively to Green’s case. The judge noted that unlike many of the inmates raising the same types of challenges to their sentences, Green was sentenced based on a plea agreement that was well understood before she entered her pleas.
“I think that is much different than a case where there was a jury trial and the defendant doesn’t agree with the sentence,” Cameron said.
The judge also found that Green’s case was not one of “manifest injustice” that would warrant a new sentence.
Green’s attorney, Mike Bartee, said Thursday’s decision will be appealed.
Green, now 63, was in the throes of a contentious breakup with her husband when fire gutted her Prairie Village home. Her 13-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter were trapped in their bedrooms and perished in the blaze. A 10-year-old daughter climbed out her window and jumped to safety.
After investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set, prosecutors charged Green with capital murder. They also charged her with attempting to kill her estranged husband by poisoning him.
Johnson County prosecutors filed notice that they would seek a death sentence but withdrew that notice after Green agreed to plead no contest and serve the Hard 40 sentence.
“She took advantage of that plea agreement, and the parties executed it,” District Attorney Steve Howe said in arguing against a new hearing for Green.
Cameron said Thursday that she had reviewed the transcripts from the plea and sentencing hearings and found that the process repeatedly was explained in court and acknowledged by Green and her attorneys.
If Cameron’s decision is upheld on appeal, Green will not be eligible for parole until 2035.