[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- KANSAS
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Tue Dec 21 00:26:20 CST 2004
death penalty news
December 20, 2004
Kansas court issues stay of death penalty ruling
The Kansas Supreme Court agreed Monday to stay its ruling that the state's
death penalty law is unconstitutional.
The decision means the law will remain in effect - and six men will remain
under sentence of death - while Attorney General Phill Kline pursues an
appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, the Kansas court threw out the state's death penalty statue
based on what it said was flaws in how juries weighed evidence for and
against death sentences. The court's majority in the 4-3 decision said the
law is weighted against defendants and must be rewritten by legislators.
Kline sought the stay shortly after the ruling, which invalidated the death
sentences for the six convicted murders on Kansas' death row. A seventh
capital murder defendant, Gary W. Kleypas, had his sentence overturned in
2001 and was awaiting resentencing.
Kline said during an interview Monday he hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would
take up the case because even if the Legislature rewrites the law, Kleypas,
the six men on death row and perhaps other defendants still could not have
a new law applied retroactively to them.
However, Kline and some legal scholars said Monday they are not sure that
the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to review the case.
"It is a very narrow window," Kline said. "I'm not certain they'll accept
Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison said he had expected a stay
to be granted. Morrison prosecuted John R. Robinson Sr., who was sentenced
to die for the murders of two women whose bodies were found in barrels in
rural Linn County. Robinson also received a life sentence for killing a
woman whose body was never found, and pleaded guilty to killing five women
in Missouri. He received a life sentence in that state as well.
Asked whether he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the Kansas
court's ruling, Morrison said: "I think there's a reasonable chance."
The court ruled Friday in the appeal of Michael Marsh II of Wichita, who
was sentenced to die for the June 1996 deaths of Marry Ane Pusch, 21, and
Marry Elizabeth Pusch, who was 19 months old. The toddler died days after
being seriously burned in a fire that destroyed the Pusch home. Her mother
was shot to death.
The Kansas court did not explain its decision to issue a stay. Its ruling
was a one-word notation, "Granted," initialed by Justice Donald Allegrucci,
on the request filed by Kline's office. Allegrucci was a member of the
court's majority for Friday's ruling.
Prominent legislators already have said they want to rewrite the capital
punishment law during their 2005 session to fix the flaw identified by the
court. Legislators convene Jan. 10.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Vratil said that while he wants to
proceed carefully "to make sure we don't get it wrong," he said he sees no
reason to wait for a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"This is something we know how to fix if we want to fix it," he said.
The case is State v. Michael L. Marsh II, No. 81,135.
On the Net:
Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.orgKansas court issues stay of
death penalty ruling
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