EUREKA A jury found a Kansas man guilty of capital murder Tuesday in the 2005 killing of a sheriff.
Now, jurors must decide whether to sentence Scott Cheever to death or life in prison without parole for fatally shooting Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. The penalty phase in the case starts today.
Cheever also was found guilty of four counts of attempted capital murder against two deputies and two state troopers, manufacturing meth and criminal possession of a firearm.
Cheever, 26, had admitted to the slaying, which occurred at a house in Hilltop, but he testified that he was high on methamphetamine at the time. And during closing arguments Tuesday, his public defender, Tim Frieden, said Cheever could not have formed the forethought to commit premeditated murder because he was under the influence of meth.
"It was an instantaneous action," Frieden said, "in the moment, without premeditation."
Prosecutors countered that Cheever was capable of making decisions the morning of the January 2005 shooting. Assistant Kansas Attorney General Barry Disney said deciding to kill someone can be considered a premeditated thought even if it happens shortly before the killing.
The law doesn't place a time limit on premeditation, Disney said.
"A minute or two is a lifetime," he said. "It was Sheriff Samuels' lifetime."
Samuels was killed as he tried to serve arrest warrants on Cheever for allegedly stealing firearms from his stepfather and not reporting to his parole officer.
Jurors had other options besides capital murder. They could have convicted him of first-degree murder or second-degree murder in the shooting of Samuels, and attempted first-degree murder or attempted second-degree murder involving the other officers.
Cheever testified that he shot up meth about 30 minutes before the sheriff arrived. He said he had been cooking meth all night and was upstairs with a gun cocked and loaded.
Cheever told jurors that he fired twice, hitting Samuels in the torso both times, and continued shooting at the other officers as they tried to help the stricken sheriff.
After firing, Cheever said he retreated to a bedroom and contemplated suicide as he held off law enforcement for several hours.
State troopers then sprayed the house with tear gas and rushed inside after him.