TOPEKA, Kan.—The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled the state’s 1994 death penalty law unconstitutional in 4-3 decision that centered on technical error in the law. The state Legislature could fix the problem during its upcoming session.
But it also means six convicted killers now facing death penalties will be resentenced and will not be back on death row. That’s because even if the Legislature approves a new death penalty law, the maximum sentence the men could face would be life in prison, the harshest alternative sentence on the books at the time of their crimes, said court spokesman Ron Keefover.
The ruling said the death penalty statute is unconstitutional because of a provision about how juries weigh arguments for and against the death penalty during sentencing. The law now says that if the jury finds the arguments for and against putting a person to death about equal, the decision should favor the state. That means the defendant would be sentenced to die.
In addition to Marsh, brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr, John Robinson Sr., Douglas Belt and Gavin Scott will escape the death penalty.
The Carr brothers were convicted for the 2000 shooting deaths of four Wichita residents. A fifth woman was shot and survived. Robinson was convicted for the death of two women who found in barrels on his farm in rural Linn County. He was also convicted in Missouri and sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of five women between 1984 and 2000.