Archive for Friday, December 17, 2004

Divided court strikes down state’s death penalty

December 17, 2004

— A divided Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty.

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

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 defendent 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. His sentence of life without parole in connection with the death of the child are affirmed.

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