The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday July 25th overturned the death
sentences of two brothers convicted of killing four friends who were
robbed and forced to have sex with each other before being shot to
death and left in a snow-covered Wichita field.
The court also struck down three of the four capital murder
convictions each against Jonathan Carr (pictured right) and Reginald
Carr (pictured left), citing procedural problems at the brothers'
joint trial for its decisions. It upheld one capital murder conviction
for each of them. Continue...
Jonathan Carr in court during the first day of his murder trial in
Sedgwick County District Court, Monday, Oct. 7, 2002, in Wichita,
Prosecutors said the brothers broke into a Wichita home in December
2000 and forced the five people there to have sex with each other and
later to withdraw money from ATMs. Two women were raped repeatedly
before all five were taken to a soccer field and shot while they were
kneeling. Four of them - 29-year-old Aaron Sander, 27-year-old Brad
Heyka, 26-year-old Jason Befort and 25-year-old Heather Muller - died.
One of the women survived a gunshot wound to the head and she ran
naked through the snow to seek help. She became a key witness at the
brothers' trial on the capital murder convictions.
The killings ended a series of crimes that authorities alleged the
Carr brothers committed over nine days in December 2000.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled 6-1 in overturning the Carr brothers'
death sentences because the presiding judge did not hold separate
sentencing proceedings for each man.
In overturning most of their capital murder convictions, the majority
said the instructions to jurors had been flawed because the judge tied
those charges to the rape of the surviving victim, not the deceased
The brothers' cases will return to Sedgwick County District Court for
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and several GOP legislators were
immediately critical of the decisions, which involved crimes that were
among the most notorious in the state since the 1959 slayings of a
western Kansas family that inspired the book In Cold Blood.
The legislators said the ruling shows the court's unwillingness to
uphold a death sentence, and the governor said he was stunned.
'They were convicted by a jury of their peers in front of an elected
local judge,' Brownback said in a statement.
'Today's ruling unnecessarily reopens wounds of a tragic moment in
Heyka's father, Larry Heyka, also expressed disappointment and said he
was struggling to make sense of the rulings, which totaled nearly 480
'Hopefully going forward, we will all understand what these rulings
really mean,' said Heyka, who is from Council Grove.
Attorneys for the brothers did not return telephone messages seeking comment.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said he's not sure
whether his office will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he
promised to continue pursuing death sentences.
Jonathan Carr, now 34, and Reginald Carr, 36, were in their early 20s
when the crimes occurred.
Together, they were convicted of 93 counts, including rape, aggravated
kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
The state Supreme Court upheld a total of 57 convictions against them.
Most of the overturned convictions involved the allegations of forcing
their victims to engage in sex acts.
Culled from UK Daily Mail