Crisis In The Family Courts

Victims' relatives oppose bill to abolish Kansas death penalty

Posted in Uncategorized by abatteredmother on March 15, 2009

Victims’ relatives oppose bill to abolish Kansas death penalty

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BY JEANNINE KORANDA
Eagle Topeka bureau

    WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    Should the Kansas death penalty be abolished?

    Yes. Prosecuting death penalty cases costs the state too much money. Yes, but not because of cost. The death penalty is not a moral judicial option. No. It should remain part of the state’s justice system.

    Your vote has been counted, thank you for voting.

    TOPEKA – Relatives of two of the Carr brothers’ victims stood with the attorney general Thursday and urged lawmakers not to abolish the death penalty.

    "My folks believed in doing the right thing, and if you don’t, you have consequences to pay," said Larry Heyka, whose son Brad Heyka was one of four people kidnapped and shot to death by Jonathan and Reginald Carr in 2000.

    It’s not about cost or closure, said Amy Scott, who dated Brad Heyka.

    "We’re never going to have closure because we’ve lost the people we loved so much," she said. "I just think this is a matter of justice. This just needs to be finished."

    Senate Bill 208, which would end the death penalty, is scheduled for debate on the Senate floor on Monday. Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, proposed it as a cost-saving measure.

    Supporters of the bill have said it would affect only future cases and that it would have no bearing on recent high-profile cases, such as Justin Thurber’s. A jury recommended Feb. 17 that Thurber be sentenced to death for the murder of Jodi Sanderholm near Arkansas City in 2007. He will be sentenced later this month.

    But Attorney General Steve Six said he is concerned that older cases could be affected. He mentioned Michael Marsh and Gavin Scott, both on death row for double murders in Sedgwick County.

    "Because both of these defendants had their death penalties overturned by the Supreme Court, they are facing new proceedings," he said. "The new sentencing proceedings will occur after July 1, 2009, and the death penalty bill as written would take the death penalty off the table for these two defendants."

    He urged Kansans to contact their lawmakers and express opposition to banning the death penalty.

    Family members also worried that if the law were changed, the Carrs could escape the death penalty through appeals.

    "It is naive of the state of Kansas to say that we can’t afford the death penalty because it is too expensive and let’s have the next ultimate punishment be life without parole," said Tania Groover, whose sister Heather Muller also died on a Wichita soccer field after being shot by the Carrs.

    The Carrs were convicted of four counts of capital murder for the deaths of Heyka, Muller, Jason Befort and Aaron Sander.

    The current death penalty is used sparingly, Scott said.

    "In Sedgwick County alone, 446 people have been murdered… since the death penalty was put into place in 1994," she said. "Only 13 people have been charged with the death penalty in that time."

    Currently, Kansas has 10 men on death row and no one has been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1994. The state’s last execution was in 1965.

    McGinn said there is no consensus on the death penalty, even among those who have lost family members to murder.

    "There is a difference of opinion out there as to what justice means," she said.

    Some people view being locked up for life — with minimal human contact and having to think about the crimes — to be justice, McGinn said.

    And some senators said they are conflicted about the issue.

    Although she voted to send the bill to the Senate floor for debate, Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she planned to vote against it because of the Carr brothers’ cases.

    "As our law stands today, there is a chance of life without parole, but in some cases the death penalty would serve justice," she said.

    The Carr brothers are an example of a case where the death penalty was merited, she said.

    "I just can’t get past that point," Schodorf said.

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