The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned death sentences against Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The two were convicted of dozens of charges, including capital murder, in a string of crimes that left five people dead back in late 2000.
The two were convicted on four Capital Murder charges and sentenced to death on those charges. The Kansas Supreme Court vacated three of the four capital murder charges for each of them. The court also vacated the death sentences.
Each still has one Capital Murder and a Felony Murder conviction against them, so they will still spend the rest of their lives in prison no matter what.
The Supreme Court made the ruling because jury instructions on the sex crime-based murder charges and the Capital Murder charges were duplicated.
District Attorney Marc Bennett says his office will continue to pursue the death penalty against Jonathan and Reginald Carr.
"This office is committed to upholding the law and ensuring safety of citizens," said Bennett during a news conference Friday afternoon.
"The jury did not take lightly its recommendation that a death sentence be imposed nor will this office."
We spoke with Nola Foulston, who was the District Attorney who prosecuted the case. She tells us the two will never see the light of day. She says the ruling was expected and the victims’ families were prepared for it.
She says the Kansas Supreme Court has overturned all of these death penalty cases, but the last two - Michael Marsh and Scott Cheever - were then upheld by the US Supreme Court.
She says that will likely be the next step in this case.
This comes just one week after the state supreme court overturned another death sentence. Friday's ruling and last week's ruling in Sidney Gleason's case mean the court has found a problem with every death sentence appeal it has heard since the death penalty was re-instated.
One of the first was Gary Kleypas whose death sentence was overturned in 2001. The court ordered changes to a state law for how jurors weigh evidence for and against death. After those changes, he was again sentenced to death in 2008. Because of the Kleypas decision, two other men - Michael Marsh and Stanley Elms - made plea deals to receive life sentences.
Gavin Scott's sentence was overturned twice before he finally received life in prison.
In January of 2013, a new trial was ordered for Phillip Cheatham after his sentence was overturned.
The state court has also had decisions overturned. It ordered a new trial for Scott Cheever after his conviction for killing Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. That was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction and death sentence.
Friday's ruling does not mean another trial for the Carr brothers, but it could mean a new sentencing phase and a new jury. This could be a appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court which has happened in other death cases. It could be months before we know what the next step will be.