Kansas Supreme Court strikes down death penalty

? A divided Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty.

The 4-3 decision vacates all seven death penalty convictions in the Kansas judicial system.

Atty. Gen. Phill Kline criticized the ruling and said he would appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the decision is allowed to stand it woud be “thwarting the administration of justice, setting aside legislative intent and wreaking emotional havoc on surviving family members,” Kline said.

The court ruled unconstitutional the part of the death penalty that instructs a jury on weighing aggravating factors of the crime against the background of the defendant, which may have affected that person’s judgment.

Essentially, the law says that if a jury decides the aggravating factors and mitigating factors are the same in weight, the defendant gets the death penalty. It’s referred to as “a tie goes to the state.”

A majority said that was unconstitutional and needs to be fixed by the Legislature. The majority included Justices Donald Allegrucci, Marla Luckert, Robert Gernon and Carol Beier.

In dissent were Chief Justice Kay McFarland, Robert Davis and Lawton Nuss.

“To now strike down the Kansas death penalty law, is, in my opinion, wholly inappropriate and unjustified,” McFarland wrote.

The case involved Michael L. Marsh II, who was sentenced to die for the June 1996 death in Wichita of Marry Ane Pusch, 21.

Pusch had been shot and stabbed and her 19-month old daughter left to die in a fire.

As a result of Friday’s decision, Marsh remains convicted of burglary and premeditated first-degree murder of Marry Pusch. He is also serving a sentence of life without parole.

Others convicted of death in Kansas will also remain incarcerated.

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