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Archive for Friday, November 19, 2004

Sentencing delayed after confession request in death penalty case

November 19, 2004

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— The fate of a convicted killer remains in limbo after a deal between Stanley Elms' attorneys and Sedgwick County prosecutors fell apart this week.

Elms, now 28, was convicted in 1999 of the rape and murder of 29-year-old Regina Gray, who was his neighbor at a Wichita duplex. A jury subsequently recommended he receive the death penalty.

Under a deal negotiated by both sides two weeks ago, prosecutors agreed to drop the death sentence if Elms agreed not to pursue an appeal accusing prosecutors of misconduct during his trial.

But on Wednesday, prosecutors added the stipulation that Elms had to give a detailed confession to the court before he could receive the new sentence. When Elms' defense objected to that request, Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller put the sentencing on hold.

If the sentencing agreement holds up, Elms would be the first person in Kansas to have a death penalty changed to a life sentence since the state reinstated capital punishment a decade ago. No one has been executed in Kansas since June 1965.

In 2001, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down several death sentences, including that of Elms for the 1998 slaying of Gray, because juries had been given unconstitutional descriptions of how the capital punishment law was to be applied.

In Elms' appeal, his attorney raised additional questions with the Supreme Court about the conduct of prosecutors. Appellate defender Debra Nelson accused prosecutors of making misleading statements to the jury, misrepresenting evidence during the trial and making improper closing remarks.

In October, Elms' attorneys and prosecutors filed a joint motion asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal in return for the state dropping its efforts to seek the death penalty. The Supreme Court agreed earlier this month and sent the case back to Waller.

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