TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a Kansas death row inmate convicted of killing his estranged wife, their two daughters and his wife’s grandmother in 2009 will get to make their case to the state’s highest court about why he should be spared.
James Kraig Kahler argues in his appeal that the court where he stood trial made mistakes, and he questions whether his death sentence was warranted.
Friday’s hearing will be the Kansas Supreme Court’s first death penalty case since Election Day, when voters retained four of its justices who were targeted for ouster partly because the court overturned other death sentences.
Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994 but hasn’t executed anyone in more than half a century. The state Supreme Court has overturned death sentences seven times in 20 years, with five of those decisions later reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kahler was convicted in 2011 of fatally shooting Karen Kahler, 44, her 89-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Wight, and the Kahlers’ two daughters, 18-year-old Emily and 16-year-old Lauren, at Wight’s home in Burlingame, about 65 miles southwest of Kansas City. Authorities said he went from room to room shooting his victims. The couple’s 10-year-old son survived unharmed.
The couple was going through a divorce that was initiated by Karen Kahler, who was having an affair with a woman in Texas.
At his trial, a psychiatrist testified that Kahler was angry at his daughters for siding with their mother and that he thought Wight should have encouraged his wife to stay married to him.
Kahler’s attorneys argued that he was unable to control his emotions and was deeply depressed at the time of the attack.
The jury deliberated for two hours before convicting him. It recommended he be executed.
Kahler is one of 10 Kansas death row inmates.
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