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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Jury recommends death for man convicted of Great Bend slayings

April 22, 2006

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— A Barton County jury recommended the death penalty for a man convicted of helping to kill a Great Bend couple because he feared one victim might tell police about a previous crime, Atty. Gen. Phill Kline said Friday.

Sidney Gleason, 26, was convicted Wednesday of capital murder, first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and criminal possession of a firearm in the shooting deaths of Miki Martinez, 19, and her boyfriend, Darren Wornkey, 24, in February 2004.

Kline, whose office helped prosecute the case, said the jury deliberated five hours before recommending the death sentence, which must be reviewed by District Judge Hannelore Kitts. Kline called it a "quick verdict," in view of the complexity of capital cases.

"We had a compelling case to indicate that for his crimes and his past behavior, this was a penalty that was appropriate," Kline said during a news conference in Topeka. "This was a man who clearly indicated he had no concern about any other human being but himself, and I believe the jury saw that."

But even if Kitts approves the death sentence, it's not yet clear whether Gleason would face death by injection.

In December 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state's capital punishment law over a provision on how juries weigh evidence for and against recommending the death sentence. Kline appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard the case in December but plans to have arguments again on it Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Gleason and his cousin, Damian Thompson, killed Martinez because they thought she might tell police about the stabbing and robbery of a 76-year-old man. Wornkey was with Martinez when the two men went to her house to confront her.

Thompson, 25, previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Martinez's death and is serving a life sentence. A capital murder charge against him was dropped after he agreed to testify against Gleason.

But last week, Thompson refused to testify against Gleason. Kitts then ruled that Thompson's testimony during a preliminary hearing - during which Thompson implicated Gleason in the murders - could be read into the trial record.

Gleason previously had pleaded no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of his mother's ex-boyfriend. He also was acquitted in February 2000 of premeditated first-degree murder in the shooting death of one man and the wounding of another in Topeka in June 1999.

He was released on parole a month before the Wornkey-Martinez homicides.

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