TOPEKA — Twenty years after her death, the Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the capital murder conviction of PSU student Carrie Williams’ killer Gary Kleypas.
Kleypas, now 60, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder and attempted rape of Williams. He was the first person sentenced to die since capital punishment was reinstated in Kansas and becomes the third person in Kansas whose sentence of death has been upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court since the death penalty was reinstated. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence of John E. Robinson Sr. last November. Robinson’s request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied earlier this month. The Kansas Supreme Court also upheld the conviction and death sentence of Scott Cheever in July, more than two years after the Kansas court’s previous decision overturning Cheever’s conviction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Cheever’s attorneys are seeking U.S. Supreme Court review, but the high court has not said whether it will hear the case
His sentence was overturned in 2001 and a new jury handed down the same sentence in 2008.
Kleypas’ attorney, Meryl B. Carver-Allmond, of the state Capital Appellate Defender’s Office, had argued in late 2015 that Kleypas’ sentence should be overturned for several reasons, particularly because during the trial, the victim’s father, Larry Williams, attempted to attack Kleypas in front of the jury.
The judge in the case polled the jury to determine whether the attempted attack would influence their decision and was satisfied it had not.
Carver-Allmond also argued that Kleypas’ mental illness was a factor and should be considered mitigating.
The court held that neither of those things were reasons to overturn the conviction or set aside the conviction.
The court ruled that since the attempted rape was the “heinous, atrocious or cruel aggravating factor” in the capital murder conviction, that charge should be vacated and was remanded to the district court.
Carver-Allmond said in a telephone interview Friday that there are several stages of appeal left, including the United States Supreme Court.
“We’re still discussing next steps,” she said. “It’s a 167 page ruling so it takes a couple hours to read it.
“It’s a death penalty case so of course we’re going to appeal.”
Carver-Allmond said a writ of certiorari asking them to hear the case would be filed with the United States Supreme Court within the next 90 days.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” she said. “But we’ll continue fighting.”
In a release, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he was pleased with the decision.
“A third Kansas capital murder conviction and death sentence has now been upheld by our state courts,” Schmidt said. “I’m encouraged the state’s position that this case was properly tried and the defendant was properly convicted and sentenced under applicable law has been affirmed.”
Kleypas confessed to the murder, attempted rape and aggravated burglary to which he was originally convicted shortly after being arrested. At the time he was on parole for the 1977 murder of Bessie Lawrence in Galena, Missouri, for which he had served 15 years.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.