In a decision that could spare the lives of some of Kansas’ most infamous killers, the state Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional. The Kansas City Star says that seven men could have their death sentences invalidated by the 4-to-3 ruling.
The court majority said the offending section of the law has to do with the way jurors are instructed to decide if a death sentence or life in prison is imposed. The Kansas law requires jurors to vote for death if the “aggravating factors” offered by prosecutors and the “mitigating factors” offered by the defense balance each other out, the justices said. The fact that a tie goes to the state – or prosecution – renders the law unconstitutional, the court said. The three dissenting justices disagreed, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court has already “implicitly approved” the Kansas law by upholding an Arizona law “functionally identical” to the one in Kansas.