Kansas Supreme Court upholds Kraig Kahler's murder conviction, death sentence

Sunday , February 11, 2018 - 1:56 PM

Morgan Chilson Topeka Capital-Journal

An appeal by James Kraig Kahler to overturn a capital murder conviction after he was found guilty of killing four family members in 2009 was quashed Friday by the Kansas Supreme Court, which also upheld a state statute that allows the execution of people with severe mental illnesses.

Kahler, who killed his wife, two daughters and his wife’s grandmother in a Burlingame shooting, raised 10 issues in his appeal, challenging the conduct of the prosecutor and trial judge and arguing the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to a person who has a severe mental illness when committing a crime.

While the Supreme Court acknowledged the trial judge committed errors, the majority agreed those errors didn’t affect the trial’s outcome and didn’t justify reversing the guilty verdict or death sentence.

The court asserted arguments by Kahler’s attorney regarding the constitutionality of a Kansas statute that abandoned the insanity defense didn’t make a case for reconsideration. Kahler’s defense attorney had argued Kahler was severely mentally impaired when he committed murder because of depression.

“Kahler has offered no new reason to reconsider the arguments previously and thoughtfully rejected by this court,” the majority court opinion said.

Kahler murdered his estranged wife, Karen Kahler, 44; daughters Lauren Kahler, 16, and Emily Kahler, 18; and Karen Kahler’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89. He left his then 10-year-old son alive.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt applauded the court’s decision to uphold a death sentence for the fifth time.

“The decision today affirms the conviction and death sentence based on an Osage County jury’s findings and moves this case forward one more step,” Schmidt said.

Others with a death penalty upheld by the court are Scott Cheever, John Robinson, Gary Kleypas and Sydney Gleason.

Reprinted with permission.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.

2018 Standard-Examiner Readers' Choice Vote
×