The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed a Kansas death penalty conviction.
According to Kansas Attorney general Derek Schmidt, the capital murder conviction of James Kraig Kahler, who murdered four members of his family in Osage County in November 2009, was affirmed this week by the high court.
Kahler was convicted of capital murder by an Osage County jury in August 2011 in connection with the 2009 murders in Burlingame of his wife, Karen Kahler, their two teenage daughters, Emily and Lauren, and Karen Kahler’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight. Kahler was sentenced to death by Chief District Court Judge Phillip Fromme in October 2011.
With the ruling, Kahler has now exhausted his direct appeals, and his capital murder convictions and death sentence have been affirmed. Further appeals are possible, however, through collateral attacks on the conviction or sentence in both state and federal court.
This is the fifth death penalty case to exhaust direct appeals since the Kansas Legislature reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The others are State v. Scott Cheever (Greenwood County), State v. Sidney Gleason (Barton County), State v. Gary Kleypas (Crawford County) and State v. John Robinson (Johnson County).
Kahler is one of 10 people under sentence of death in Kansas. The other death penalty cases that remain pending at various stages of direct appeals before the Kansas Supreme Court are State v. Jonathan Carr (Sedgwick County); State v. Reginald Carr (Sedgwick County); State v. Justin Thurber (Cowley County); State v. Frazier Glenn Miller (Johnson County); and State v. Kyle Flack (Franklin County).
In an eleventh case, State v. Doug Belt (Sedgwick County), the defendant died in prison, but the Kansas Supreme Court in October 2016 declined to disturb the capital murder conviction and death sentence.