A divided Kansas Supreme Court said Friday that it will uphold the death sentence of a man it previously overturned, according to a news release.
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Kansas Supreme Court to take a second look at Sidney Gleason’s case early last year after hearing oral arguments in it and the cases of killers Jonathan and Reginald Carr in October 2015. A Barton County jury gave Gleason a death sentence for killing Mikiala “Miki” Martinez and her boyfriend, Darren Wornkey, in 2004 to keep her from telling authorities about an armed robbery.
“The decision today affirms the conviction and death sentence based on a Barton County jury’s findings and moves this case along one step further. The wheels of justice are turning,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in an e-mailed statement after the ruling was announced.
When the Kansas Supreme Court originally took up Gleason’s appeal in 2014 it upheld his convictions but vacated his death sentence after deciding jurors weren’t given adequate instruction on when to recommend the death penalty. The court ordered he receive a new penalty-phase of his trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2016.
Friday’s 4-3 ruling decided eight issues, including questions of whether a jury instruction error was harmless given prosecutors’ evidence against Gleason and whether his sentence violated the Kansas Constitution because it was more severe than the 25-to-life prison sentence his accomplice, Damien Thompson, received.
Justice Dan Biles penned the majority decision. Justice Caleb Stegall agreed with decision to uphold Gleason’s death sentence but disagreed with some of the majority’s rationale for doing so.
Justices Marla Luckert and Carol Beier dissented, saying Thompson’s refusal to testify against Gleason led to errors that warrant reversal of his murder convictions and a new jury trial.
Friday’s ruling brings the total number of Kansas death sentences upheld to four since the state brought back capital punishment in 1994.
The state supreme court also affirmed death sentences for Johnson County serial killer John Robinson Jr., known for storing his victims’ bodies in barrels; for Scott Cheever, who fatally shot Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid in 2005; and for Gary Kleypas, who raped and murdered a Pittsburg State University student in her home in 1996.
The last state executions, by hanging, were in 1965. Ten men currently are on death row.
CAPITAL CRIMES IN KANSAS
Here’s a list of death penalty-eligible crimes in Kansas. Murder must be intentional and premeditated.
▪ Murder of a kidnapping victim held for ransom
▪ Killing of a kidnapping victim under 14 held for a sex crime
▪ Killing of a victim of rape, criminal sodomy and aggravated criminal sodomy or those attempted crimes
▪ Murder for hire or participation in a murder-for-hire scheme
▪ Killing of a prison or jail employee or inmate by a prison or jail inmate
▪ Murder of a law enforcement officer
▪ Two or more killings at once or killings “connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme”
In addition to returning a unanimous capital murder verdict, jurors must also unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did at least one of the following things (called aggravating circumstances) to impose a death sentence:
▪ Prior felony conviction where great bodily harm, disfigurement, dismemberment or death was inflicted on a victim
▪ Knowingly or purposely killed or created a great risk of death for two or more people
▪ Killed to receive money or valuables for self or another
▪ Authorized or hired another to kill
▪ Killed to avoid or prevent arrest or prosecution
▪ Killed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner, including stalking or criminal threats of a victim, torture, desecration of a victim’s body indicating depravity, mental anguish or physical abuse of a victim
▪ Killed while serving a prison sentence for a felony at the time of the crime
▪ Murdered a witness in a criminal proceeding
Jurors can refuse to recommend a death penalty for, but not limited to, these reasons (called mitigating circumstances):
▪ The defendant has no or little prior criminal history
▪ The defendant was influenced by extreme mental or emotional disturbances or acted under extreme distress or was forced by another person
▪ A crime victim consented to or willingly participated in the conduct
▪ The defendant was an accomplice in the crime or had a minor role
▪ The defendant’s age or mental capacity, or whether he or she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
▪ Whether imprisonment would protect public safety
Source: 2014 Kansas statutes