Kansas Supreme Court

An appeal filed by a Kansas man on death row has caught the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court and could change how Kansas and other states prosecute people who commit crimes while mentally ill.

Nobody disputes that James Kahler murdered four family members in 2009. But Kahler’s attorneys argued at trial and in subsequent appeals that he had spiraled into a mental health crisis in the months preceding the murders and was psychotic during the attack. The murders took place in Burlingame, about 30 miles south of Topeka.

Let’s say you’re arrested. You’re booked into your local jail and the district attorney decides to press charges.

The next day, you make your first court appearance in front of a judge, who then has to make a decision. Let you go home before trial — or keep you in jail?  And under what conditions?

T_martin 33, flickr Creative Commons

A ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court could make it easier for police officers to search a home based on what they believe they smell.

In the recent ruling, four of the seven justices said that an officer’s belief she smelled unlit marijuana was probable cause to sweep an apartment in Douglas County and then ask for a search warrant.

A committee of Kansas judges and attorneys says cities need to reduce the costs of appearing in municipal court.

The Kansas Supreme Court appointed the ad hoc committee last September to assess whether the state’s municipal courts impose an unreasonable financial burden on low-income people. 

A report released Wednesday lists more than a dozen suggestions to reduce or simplify fees, bail and monetary fines that come with being arrested and charged with a crime.

KDOC

The Kansas Supreme Court vacated the sentence of a Wichita man who ran over a woman in a Dillons parking lot in 2015 and ordered that he be resentenced in Sedgwick County District Court.

The ruling Friday involves the sentence given to Christopher J. Schrader in January 2016. Schrader pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 69 months in prison.

Stephan Bisaha / KMUW

The Wichita School Board on Thursday applauded an update regarding the Kansas Supreme Court's recent ruling on school funding.

"The possibility of a shutdown no longer exists," Susan Willis, the district's chief financial officer, told board members. "So school will commence on time."

The court said a school finance plan passed earlier this year still isn't adequate, but gave the Kansas Legislature another year to account for inflation in its school funding formula.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

On Monday, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively said the state’s public schools could open in the fall. Yet the same decision left local district officials on Tuesday and beyond with continued, long-term uncertainty.

The high court’s decision could lead to continued fighting over school funding and the topic will likely serve as political fodder in state elections.

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas continues to underfund its schools, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Monday — a decision that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars more over the next four years.

But because the Legislature agreed to significant hikes in funding this spring, the justices gave it another year to add to the amount it sends to local school districts.

The high court could have forced lawmakers back to Topeka in coming weeks to fix the problem or face school closures, something the state’s lawyers begged it not to do.

Kansas teachers have lost their second attempt to get tenure back for thousands of educators through the courts — but say they will continue their battle at the Legislature.

“So this is a disappointment,” teachers union spokesman Marcus Baltzell said of the decision handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court Friday. “But it's just one step."

Friday’s decision from the state’s highest court was unanimous.

Courtesy KDOC

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of Justin Thurber. Yet the justices delayed a decision on his death sentence and said a lower court must reconsider whether he has a developmental disability.

A jury sentenced Thurber to death for the 2007 killing of 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm, a college student in Cowley County.

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