Death penalty case has implications for mentally ill


State News

March 25, 2019 - 9:49 AM

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The day after Thanksgiving in 2009, James Kahler went to the home of his estranged wife’s grandmother, where he shot the two women, along with his two teenage daughters.

No one — not even Kahler’s attorneys — disputes that he killed the four relatives. Instead, his lawyers argue that he was suffering from depression so severe that he experienced extreme emotional disturbance, dissociating him from reality.

What had been an open-and-shut death penalty case — Kahler was convicted and sentenced in 2011 — was upended when the U.S. Supreme Court said this past week that it would consider whether Kansas unconstitutionally abolished his right to use insanity as a defense. A ruling from the nation’s highest court could have far-reaching implications for mentally ill defendants across the nation.

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