Nine people sit on Kansas’ death row. A tenth could be joining them in a few weeks, depending on the decision of a judge in Johnson County.
Three of the death row inmates, including murderer brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, had their appeal to spare their lives to the Supreme Court last week.
By some accounts the Carr brothers appear out of luck.
Justice Antonin Scalia took what was described as an unusual step of reading, at length, the detailed account of their crimes - how they broke into a home in Wichita in December 2000 and forced the three men and two women inside to have sex with each other while they watched. The brothers, ages 20 and 23 at the time, then raped the women repeatedly for more than three hours.
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Then they forced the victims to withdraw money from ATMs before taking them to a snow soccer field where they made their victims shoot each other in the head.
Justice Samuel Alito was particularly distressed when he heard the accounts, saying they were “some of the most horrendous murders that I have ever seen in my 10 years here. And we see practically every death penalty case that comes up anywhere in the country. These have to rank as among the worst.”
The Supreme Court debated the sentencing process for the Carrs and, in a separate case, Sidney Gleason, who was convicted of the shooting deaths of a Great Bend couple in 2004.
The justices sounded critical of the Kansas Supreme Court, which overturned the death sentences of all three men last summer. The Kansas court has not upheld any death sentence since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1994, according to the Associated Press.
For one thing, the Kansas court ruled that the Carr brothers should have been sentenced separately instead of jointly.
The higher court is expected to issue a ruling next summer. By then, there could be 10 men on death row in Kansas.
On Nov. 10, a judge is expected to formally sentence 74-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. for the 2014 fatal shooting of three people outside of Jewish organizations in Johnson County. The jury that found him guilty has recommended a death sentence over life without parole.
Kansas hasn’t executed anyone since 1965 when 22-year-old George York, convicted for participating in a cross-country killing spree, was hanged at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing.
Missouri, which also has the death penalty, currently has about 40 inmates on death row, according to the website MissouriDeathRow.com.
Eight of the prisoners currently facing death in Kansas are at the El Dorado Correctional Facility; one is at Lansing.
Here are the six others (other than the Carrs and Gleason) waiting on Kansas’ death row, according to the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty and news accounts:
John E. Robinson, Sr., an Olathe grandfather who was convicted of eight murders in Kansas and Missouri. The discovery of a woman’s body stuffed inside a metal barrel led to the one of the largest police investigations in local history.
Gary Kleypas, 58, was sentenced to death in 1997 for killing 20-year-old Carrie Williams, a fellow student at Pittsburg State University, in March 1996. At the time he was on parole for the beating death of an elderly woman in Galena, Mo. nearly 10 years earlier. He is appealing his death sentence.
▪ Douglas Belt was convicted in 2004 for murdering Lucille Gallegos. Her headless body was found in a west Wichita apartment in 2002.
▪ Scott Cheever, convicted in November 2007, killed Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels in January 2005 during a drug raid. In May, the Kansas Supreme Court halted its review of Cheever’s capital murder case because the U.S. Supreme Court was reviewing the Carr and Gleason cases.
▪ Justin Thurber was sentenced to death in March 2009 for the 2007 killing of 19-year-old college student Jodi Sanderholm. Prosecutors said the co-ed was beaten, strangled and raped before she died.
▪ James Kraig Kahler was convicted in October 2011 for killing his wife, two teenage daughters and his wife’s grandmother. Prosecutors said Kahler wanted to bring another woman into the couple’s sex life, which led his wife to begin a lesbian affair that he felt destroyed their marriage.