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Crime and Courts

US Supreme Court To Hear Capital Cases For Carr Brothers, Gleason

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The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider reinstating death sentences for two brothers convicted in the notorious slayings of four people in Kansas, capital cases that roiled the state's politics and have prompted calls to remake its judiciary.

The nation's highest court planned Wednesday to hear the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr, sentenced to lethal injection for the killings in Wichita in December 2000. The justices also scheduled arguments in the case of Sidney Gleason, sentenced to die for the 2004 murder of a Great Bend woman and her boyfriend after she witnessed a robbery.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the death sentences in all three cases last year, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office appealed. Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994 but has yet to execute any convicted murderers since then because the state's highest court hasn't upheld any death sentence. The state's last executions were hangings, in 1965.

Conservative Republicans dominate state politics, but six of the court's seven justices were appointed by Democratic or moderate GOP governors, leading to criticism that it leans to the left and has shown it simply opposes capital punishment. The decisions overturning the Carrs' sentences prompted a campaign by victims' family members that came close to removing two justices last year, an effort endorsed by both GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and the state Republican Party's chairman.

The brothers were sentenced to die for fatally shooting a woman and three men a snow-covered field. They were also convicted of breaking into a home, first forcing the victims to have sex with each other and ordering them to withdraw money from ATMs. A second woman also was in the field and survived, providing eyewitness testimony.

Defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully that the brothers couldn't get a fair trial in Wichita and objected to them having a single, capital-sentencing trial, saying they disagreed about who was most responsible for the crimes. The Kansas justices said the brothers should have had separate sentencing trials. The Carrs remain in prison.