- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the death sentences of three convicted murderers in Kansas may undermine support for a bill that would repeal the state’s death penalty, a sponsor of the measure said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a Kansas Supreme Court ruling and upheld the death sentences of brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who killed five in Wichita in December 2000. It also reversed the Kansas court in the death penalty case of Sidney Gleason, who was convicted of murder in the 2004 killing of a Great Bend woman and her boyfriend, because the decision in that case was based on the court’s ruling in the Carr brothers’ case.

In addition to repealing the death penalty, the bill introduced in the Kansas House on Friday would create a charge of “aggravated murder” that would be punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (https://bit.ly/1JvapxU ). House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, is expected to refer it to a committee on Monday.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, is expected to refer the death penalty bill to a committee on Monday. But Republican Rep. John Bradford, one of the bill’s 17 sponsors from both parties, said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling may hurt the bill’s chances.

“Up until (Wednesday), we had enough votes that we could have passed it in the House,” said Bradford. “Right now, after that decision, I think it’s going to be questionable.”

Now, with the Carr brothers’ case back in the spotlight, some supporters of repealing the Kansas death penalty said it will be hard to vote for the repeal without appearing like they’re letting the Carr brothers off the hook, even though the repeal bill would not apply retroactively to them.

“I’m sure some would perceive that,” said Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “But I look at it from a different perspective. You have your personal convictions, whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, whether you’re for the death penalty or against the death penalty. Normally (a court ruling) doesn’t change your personal convictions. It may add pressure that they don’t want to go forward this year, though.”

Several people have been sentenced to death since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. But no one has been executed because the Kansas Supreme Court has consistently overturned or vacated their sentences.

But Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is a supporter of the death penalty, said he doesn’t buy the argument that the law is ineffective because it hasn’t been used.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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