TOPEKA – (January 21, 2022) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued the following statement in connection with today’s rulings by the Kansas Supreme Court affirming the death sentences imposed on Jonathan D. Carr and Reginald D. Carr Jr. for capital murders committed in Sedgwick County in 2000:
“The legal path to this day has been long and winding for the victims and their families, for the Wichita and Sedgwick County community, and for all of Kansas, but today’s decisions by the Kansas Supreme Court are welcome confirmations that although the wheels of justice may turn slowly they do ultimately propel us all forward. Absent a successful request by the defendants for the U.S. Supreme Court to again review the case, which seems unlikely at this stage, today’s decisions will conclude the direct appeals in this case with the result that both defendants stand convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death as Sedgwick County juries determined to be appropriate so many years ago.
“This does not mean the litigation in these cases is concluded because the defendants now have the opportunity, under both state and federal law, to seek further judicial review of their cases. But completing these direct appeals is an important milestone in the path toward justice for the horrific crimes these defendants committed and the innocent lives they took.”
In separate opinions, the Kansas Supreme Court today affirmed the death sentences for both Carr defendants. The Kansas Supreme Court had previously reversed the defendants’ death sentences, but in 2014 Schmidt and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Schmidt personally argued the state’s appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s erroneous decision.
Today’s state court action resolves other legal issues that remained after the U.S. Supreme Court’s action. Among the issues decided today, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that its 2019 decision in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, which identified a fundamental state constitutional right to abortion, does not extend the concept of fundamental rights to preclude the death penalty for those lawfully convicted of capital murder, and consequently the Kansas death penalty does not violate Section 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights.
“Today’s decision is important principally because of what it means for justice in the horrific murders committed by the Carr brothers in Wichita,” Schmidt said. “But it also is important because the Kansas Supreme Court has now limited the effect of its Hodes & Nauser decision. It increasingly appears that the Hodes decision, which I continue to believe was erroneous as a matter of state constitutional law, may apply only to abortion, and Kansas voters will have the opportunity in August to correct that mistaken interpretation of our state constitution through the public vote on the proposed Value Them Both Amendment to the Kansas constitution.”
Currently, nine people are under sentence of death in Kansas. Of those nine, seven have exhausted their direct appeals and are in various stages of collateral litigation. Those are Gary Kleypas, John Robinson, Sydney Gleason, Scott Cheever, Kraig Kahler, and now Jonathan and Reginald Carr. Of the remaining two, Justin Thurber’s convictions were affirmed on appeal, but his sentence remains under appeal as the courts gather information relating to his claim of intellectual disability. The case of the other remaining defendant – Kyle Flack – will be argued before the Kansas Supreme Court next week.
The Kansas Supreme Court’s decision in Kansas v. Reginald Carr is available https://bit.ly/3tM0uPP and Kansas v. Jonathan Carr is available https://bit.ly/3IkT5Le.