Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): These Victims Are Not Partisan

Friday, September 9, 2016

These Victims Are Not Partisan

Johnson County voters spared members of the Kansas Supreme Court in 2014. The voters showed much more empathy for Kansas Supreme Court Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson than those men showed for victims of the Carr brothers. Rosen and Johnson were retained to the bench receiving 52 percent of 'yes' votes in the 2014 retention election.

Had the election been left up to Wichita voters, those justices would have been tossed off the bench. Why were Wichita voters so enraged by those two judges? And why didn't Kansas City-area folks know the full vile story of what occurred in Wichita on Dec. 14, 2000? And most importantly, what does all of that have to do with the 2016 judicial retention election? 

Allow me to explain. Set aside your breakfast unless you want to see it a second time.

On Dec. 14, 2000, Jonathan Carr, 20, and his brother Reginald Carr, 22, busted into a Wichita apartment where they discovered roommates Jason Befort, Brad Heyka, and Aaron Sander. Jason's girlfriend, HG; and Aaron's friend, Heather Mueller. It's difficult to find HG's name, because on the night of Dec. 14, she became a rape victim, and those victims are rarely identified in the press.

(The following is graphic and violent and devastating.)

When the Carr brothers busted in waving guns and golf clubs, they demanded that Jason, Brad, Aaron, HG and Heather remove their clothes. The brothers--by this time on a crime spree that included car jacking, robbing another man and shooting a cellist, who would eventually die of her injuries-- took HG and Heather to the bedroom. HG and Heather were forced to perform oral sex on one another. Eventually, the Carr brothers forced their male hostages to have sex with both women. (When Jason was unable to perform, HG assisted him so that he wouldn't be killed for it.) 

For her efforts, HG was raped by Jonathan Carr. He then raped Heather. Then the hostages got a brief reprieve from the sexual degradation as the brothers loaded each into the car and took them to various ATMs where they were forced to withdraw cash. When they returned back to the apartment, the brothers found an engagement ring Jason had purchased for HG. So, Reginald took HG to the dining room and raped her on the floor. He ejaculated in her mouth and forced her to swallow, and then Jonathan raped both women one more time.

Three hours after the torture began, the brothers loaded their hostages, barely clothed, into a car. The men were stuffed in the trunk of Aaron's car. The women were in passenger seats, one in Aaron's car driven by Jonathan, and the other in Jason's pickup driven by Reginald. The brothers drove them to a snowy field, forced them to kneel in the snow, and shot them all in the back of the head. Aaron pleaded for his life. HG was shot fifth, though she remained on her knees after the shot, the brothers kicked her face first into the snow and ran over her with the pickup truck before driving away.

HG survived because a her hair barrette deflected the bullet. She went to Jason and removed her sweater--the only thing she was wearing--and wrapped it around his head to try to stifle bleeding from his eye. She checked on the others and ran for more than a mile to the nearest house, diving into the snow face first every time a car passed as she was afraid it may be the brothers returning to finish the job.

The brothers didn't find her. They were too busy heading back to the apartment to ransack and loot it further. They stole valuables and in a final act of depraved violence, beat HG's dog, Nikki, to death with a golf club.

  • Jason Befort was 26. He was a science teacher and an assistant baseball coach at Augusta High School, planning to propose to his girlfriend, HG, also a teacher.
  • Aaron Sander was 29 and a graduate student at Wichita State University. He was planning to join the priesthood.
  • Brad Heyka was 27. He was a financial analyst.
  • Heather Muller was 25 and a church preschool teacher. 

That night, the Carr brothers tortured and demeaned five people before ending the lives of four of them. For their crimes, a Kansas jury unanimously sentenced the brothers to death.

I personally am opposed to the death penalty, though I waver on that position. The Carr brothers are quite the argument in favor of capital punishment. Law abiding citizens must always fear that no matter how abhorrent the crime, some liberal may come along and just let the most egregious murderers back on the street. I note that the recidivism rate for those who receive capital punishment is 0 percent. 

What I think about the death penalty is irrelevant. It is the law in Kansas, and the U.S. Supreme Court has continually held that capital punishment is constitutional.

Members of the Kansas Supreme Court, apparently, think their personal beliefs were more important than the law, and they ruled as such, overturning the Carr brothers' death sentence on appeal in 2002. That must have been a lovely moment for HG, the lone survivor, who now had to suffer through another agonizing news cycle in which the Carr brothers were relieved of some of the punishment for their heinous crimes. 

The state of Kansas appealed the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to the highest court in the land. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court take the case, the Supreme Court justices ruled in near unanimous fashion that the Kansas Supreme Court used questionable judgment in overturning the death penalty sentence. Eight of nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court said they rejected the Kansas Supreme Court's decision. Even the liberals' beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg signed on to the opinion reversing the Kansas Supreme Court's decision. (Justice Sotomayor dissented, because she did not believe the Supreme Court should have reviewed the case. Her dissent is really something strange. She basically wrote that the Kansas Supreme Court was being overprotective of the citizenry and that states should be allowed to experiment. Seriously, it's weird.)

Specifically, the U.S. Court rejected claims that Kansas jurors weren't given clear enough instructions. The Court rejected the idea that each brother's sentence was prejudiced by being tried alongside one another. 

"In light of all the evidence presented at the guild and penalty phases relevant to the jury's sentencing determination, the contention that the admission of evidence by one brother could have so infected the jury's consideration of the other's sentence as to amount to a denial of due process is beyond the pale," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a scathing rebuke to the Kansas court.

"It is improper to vacate a death sentence based on pure 'speculation' of fundamental unfairness 'rather than on reasoned judgment,'" Scalia wrote.

Judgement is the entire purpose of the Kansas Supreme Court, and the Kansas Court, as it existed in 2002, didn't use it. That's not just my opinion, and it's not just the opinion of victims of that brutal crime and their families. It's the opinion of the United States' highest court. 

Liberals and people trying to defend their questionable legacies--that's you, former Kansas Govs. Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Graves, Mike Hayden and John Carlin-- are attempting to sell the story that the movement to remove Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier, and Dan Biles is a political movement designed by Republicans just to be mean. 

Conservatives do have reason to remove these self-serving individuals who make rulings based on their own biases as opposed to the law. The justices have politicized the retention elections in hope of retaining their little empires.

They should be ashamed for forcing HG to relive what was likely the very worst night of her life repeatedly in the justices' quest to make law rather than interpret it. And every Kansan should be appalled at the four former Governors for attempting to discredit a group of victims and their families for seeking the only redress they can: The removal of the justices who prolonged their suffering. 

Kansas law provides a remedy for removing justices who refuse to exercise good judgement. Members of the Kansas Supreme Court aren't promised lifetime appointments. Voters can vote against keeping those people in office, and voters should exercise that right come November.

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