The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal by the state of Kansas seeking the death penalty for two brothers convicted in the execution-style murders of four people on a snowy soccer field in a 2000 crime spree called the Wichita Massacre.
The brothers, Jonathan and Reginald Carr, and prosecutors appealed for different reasons after the Kansas Supreme Court last July threw out death sentences imposed on both men but left various convictions in place.
The Supreme Court agreed only to hear the state’s case, not the appeal by the brothers. Prosecutors say the death sentences should be re-imposed.
Separately, the high court agreed to hear an appeal by the state of Kansas in another murder case that raised the same legal issue. The defendant, Sidney Gleason, was convicted of a double murder in 2004.
“We have carefully analyzed the opinions of the Kansas Supreme Court and we do not believe they have correctly applied the U.S. Constitution,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said in a statement. “I am encouraged the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the cases.”
The Carr brothers were sentenced to death for the Wichita murders in 2002. Their December 2000 crime spree included the kidnapping of three men and two women in a home invasion that included rape and sexual humiliation.
The five victims were shot in the head. One survived. The appeals court affirmed some of the convictions against the two brothers, including murder, but vacated the death penalty for both of them, sending the case back to a district court for new sentencing.
One of the legal issues is whether the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, requires trial judges to tell the jury that mitigating evidence introduced at sentencing does not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The judge made no such statement in the Carrs’ case.
Oral arguments and rulings in all three cases are due in the court’s next term, which starts in October and ends in June.