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State responds to appeals in Carr brothers’ death sentences

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 12:26 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update 6 p.m. Monday, May 24, 2021: As attorneys for Jonathan and Reginald Carr seek the Kanas Supreme Court to again reverse their death sentences, Eyewitness News hears the issues bringing up the appeal, as well as the response from the state.

Attorneys’ main argument is that the brothers penalty phase should have been completed separately. They also claim errors with jury instructions and court proceedings. On Monday afternoon, the attorney for Jonathan Carr said the cumulative effect of those influenced the final outcome of the sentence. This is an argument the state denies.

“There is no reversible error in this case,” State Attorney David Lowden said. “There was overwhelming evidence of guilt. The quality of that evidence was so overwhelming.”

In the 2014 decision to overturn the brothers’ death sentences, the Kansas Supreme Court explained in its opinion that this was because the trial judge failed to separate their penalty phase and said there was an error in jury instructions. There were other technical issues that the court didn’t rule on. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Kansas high court’s ruling, keeping the death sentence in place and sending it back to the state.

Reginald Carr’s attorney also said her client was not allowed to present a defense of mistaken identity to contest some of the charges.

“That defense had support in the physical evidence and the testimonial evidence that came in at trial,” she said.

The state said while Reginald Carr wasn’t allowed to present circumstantial evidence a third person was involved, he could have taken the stand, but didn’t.

Attorneys for the Carr brothers said if the Kansas Supreme Court overturns the death sentences, the life sentences would stand. The state supreme court’s opinion on the case will likely come down in the next few months.

Update: Attorneys for Jonathan and Reginald Carr will appear before the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday. They will work to get their death sentences overturned.

In 2002, the Carr brothers were convicted on four counts of capital murder and sentenced to death. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 2014. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision and reinstated the death penalty.

Now, the Kansas Supreme Court must address 20 issues raised in the original appeal that it did not initially rule on in 2014 because of that court’s original decision on their sentence.

Lawyers for Jonathan and Reginald Carr will be back in court next week as they work to get their death penalties overturned.

In 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned death penalty sentences for the brothers, who were convicted of multiple murders the pair committed in Wichita in December 2000.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision and reinstated the death penalty. Now, the Kansas Supreme Court must address 20 penalty-phase issues from the brothers’ capital murder trial that the court did not previously need to rule on.

In December 2000, the brothers went on a weeklong crime spree, sexually assaulting, beating and robbing multiple people, killing five of them. The new proceedings in the Carr Brothers appeal will be heard beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, May 24.

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