- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

When Reginald and Jonathan Carr go on trial today for a crime spree now known as the "Wichita Horror," there probably won't be any mention of race.
But that doesn't mean the people of Wichita won't be thinking about it.
The Carr brothers are charged with a whopping 113 counts stemming from the murders of five Wichitans in December 2000, including the execution-style slayings of four young roommates on a frozen soccer field.
Because the Carrs are black and their victims white, many observers expected the brothers to be charged with hate crimes. When the District Attorney's Office failed to do so, it touched off accusations of racial favoritism and a flood of angry letters and e-mails from as far away as Europe.
That sense of racial injustice was exacerbated by the dearth of national media attention on the crime. Although the Associated Press covered the story, only a handful of newspapers outside Kansas picked it up, even though locals said the murders were arguably as horrific as those of James Byrd in Texas or Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming.
"If this had been two white males accused of killing four black individuals, the media would be on a feeding frenzy and every satellite news organization would be in Wichita doing live reports," said Trent Hungate of Wichita in a letter to the Wichita Eagle shortly after the crime.
District Attorney Nola Foulston argued that she couldn't charge the brothers with hate crimes because Kansas had no hate-crimes statute. Furthermore, the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, which cannot be enhanced by hate-crimes status.
Still, accusations of a double standard have persisted. "To say 'They'd get the death penalty anyway' mitigates the whole purpose of having hate-crimes statutes," said Lou Calabro of the European-American Issues Forum in San Francisco.
"Often a criminal will get 102 years or more, and what's the point of that?" he said. "The whole purpose of having them is that it's more serious to attack a racial group than just a guy."
The only network to cover the Wichita killings is Court TV, which plans coverage of the trial from Sedgwick County District Court following jury selection, which begins today. A jury pool of 517 persons a county record has been selected for interviews, a process that is expected to take about two weeks.
The problem is finding a dozen people who haven't already made up their minds about the crime. The defense, which tried unsuccessfully to move the trial, released a survey earlier this year showing that 74 percent of county residents said the Carrs were either "guilty" or "definitely guilty."
Even so, Paul Cromwell, a professor of criminal justice at Wichita State University, said he was confident that District Court Judge Paul Clark would be able to seat an impartial jury.
"It might have been difficult two years ago, but I think they can get a fair trial now," he said. "It's hard to find someone who hasn't read about it or heard about it, but the fever pitch is gone, although that hasn't diminished the seriousness of the crime."
Key to the prosecution's success will be the testimony of H.G., a young woman now known only by her initials and the sole survivor of the Dec. 15, 2000, attack. In an April 16, 2001, deposition, she told the court that the Carrs broke into the townhouse where she and four friends, all in their 20s, were winding down after a day of work.
She said the Carrs forced her and her friend Heather Muller, 25, at gunpoint to perform sex acts on each other, then instructed their three male friends to have sex with them, then raped the women themselves. The brothers drove the five to an ATM to withdraw money from their accounts and then to the snowy soccer field at about 2 a.m.
The Carrs told the five to kneel in the snow with their backs to them, then shot them in the head one by one. Somehow, H.G. survived, and after the brothers drove away, she ran naked across the frozen field to seek help.
The Carrs are also accused of shooting and killing a local cellist, Linda Ann Walenta, in a robbery attempt outside her home four days earlier. They face additional robbery charges for an ATM robbery earlier that month.
Judge Clark refused defense motions for separate trials for the brothers, leading to speculation that the two could try to save themselves by pointing fingers at each other. The Carrs, both from nearby Dodge City, Kan., are also expected to argue that they were nowhere near the scene of the weeklong crime spree.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide