Yael T. Abouhalkah

Sam Brownback’s hypocritical attack on Kansas Supreme Court reopens ugly murder case wounds

Gov. Sam Brownback is desperately throwing mud at the Kansas Supreme Court in the final days of his campaign, while re-opening ugly wounds in a Wichita murder case.

It’s an appalling place for his race against Democrat Paul Davis to be at this point in time.

Brownback is saying two judges should not be retained on Nov. 4 because they overturned what they saw as improperly applied death penalties to two persons convicted of murder. They are Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who killed five people in late 2000.

It’s important to note — because Brownback certainly isn’t telling the public this — that the state Supreme Court upheld the murder convictions of the two men. They are still in prison and not getting out.

“The Kansas Supreme Court has repeatedly created law and refused to follow the law, rather than interpreting the law, as is their constitutional responsibility,” the Brownback team said Thursday.

How hypocritical.

This is the same governor who recently appointed his own former chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the Supreme Court. Stegall’s conservative credentials served him well. No doubt Brownback hopes Stegall will push back against what the governor sees as “liberal” judges on the Supreme Court, creating as much “conservative” law as Stegall can.

But there’s something even uglier about Brownback’s last-minute bashing of the court.

Earlier this year, when the state Supreme Court overturned the death penalties for the Carr brothers, here’s what Brownback said: “Today’s ruling unnecessarily reopens wounds of a tragic moment in Wichita’s history.”

Give Brownback the benefit of the doubt and say it was fine for him to express that sentiment.

Yet now that Brownback unexpectedly finds himself in a tight race with Davis, look what the governor is doing: unnecessarily reopening wounds of the Carr brothers case.

Just days ago, Brownback unleashed an ugly, race-baiting ad attacking Davis as a “liberal” lawyer who would appoint liberal judges and let black murderers off the hook.

Even Kansans for Justice, an organization that represents family members of victims of the Carr brothers, lashed out at Brownback’s notorious tactics.

“We are saddened the case becomes about politics and not about our loved ones who we’ve lost,” said Amy James, the media spokesperson for Kansans for Justice.

Kansans for Justice, it must be noted, also wants the two judges not to be retained.

But at least the group has legitimate reasons to express its opinions about the judges’ decisions.

Brownback is just taking advantage of the situation, and of Kansans for Justice, for purely self-serving political purposes.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.