TOPEKA - Kansas' death penalty law is unconstitutional because it favors the state over defendants when aggravating and mitigating circumstances are equally split, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision today.
The decision came in the case of Michael Marsh of Wichita, who was convicted of killing Marry Ane Pusch and her 19-year-old daughter, Marry Elizabeth in 1996.
The decision was not a broad, sweeping indictment of capital punishment, but rather identified a technical error in the law the state Legislature could fix during their upcoming session.
The three justices who disagreed with the ruling, however, said it would wipe out the death penalty in other cases, including Reginald and Jonathan Carr, convicted of killing four people in Wichita in December 2000; Douglas Belt, sentenced to death last month for killing Lucille Gallegos in Wichita; and John Robinson, convicted in Johnson County of killing two women and stuffing their bodies in barrels.
The court also ordered a new trial for Marsh on capital murder and aggravated arson charges. The trial court erred by refusing to allow testimony that the victim's husband may have been involved in the murder, the Supreme Court ruled.
In a dissent, Chief Justice Kay McFarland wrote that the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty under similar circumstances in the case of Gary Kleypas, convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of Carrie Williams in Pittsburg.
"To now strike down the Kansas death penalty law is, in my opinion, wholly inappropriate and unjustified," she wrote.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Kansas' Supreme Court has just struck down that state's death penalty law. Here's the AP story: