Court: Kan. death sentence shouldn't be thrown out

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Associated Press

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 2:05 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a lower court in Kansas should not have overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man who said he was high on methamphetamine when he killed a local sheriff.

The high court unanimously overturned the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to throw out Scott Cheever's death sentence for the 2005 fatal shooting of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. Wednesday's decision sends the case back to the Kansas Supreme Court for further proceedings.

The Kansas court said Cheever's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination were violated by prosecutors who used a court-ordered mental evaluation from a different trial against him.

Cheever's own expert argued that methamphetamine use had damaged his brain. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that because Cheever's side raised the brain damage issue, prosecutors were entitled to use testimony from the mental health expert from a different trial against him. That expert said Cheever killed because of an anti-social personality, not because of brain damage.

The court agreed with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's argument that once Cheever's defense presented mental health issues, he was not protected from answering rebuttal questions from prosecutors.

Messages left with Cheever's attorneys seeking comment on Wednesday weren't immediately returned.

Cheever acknowledged shooting Samuels when the officer tried to serve a warrant at a rural home where meth was made. At his trial, Cheever argued that he was high on meth and incapable of premeditation when he opened fire on Samuels and four other officers.

State prosecutors initially filed the case in federal court to seek the death penalty, after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that Kansas ruling and charges were then filed in state court seeking the death penalty.

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