The court argued the Kansas case in October 2015 and came to an 8 to 1 decision on Wednesday. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented the Supreme Court’s decision, only to note the case shouldn’t have been heard in the first place.
The brothers randomly arrived at the home of Jason Befort, where his friends Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, and surviving victim, Holly G., were spending the night. After raping the two women, the brothers forced the men to perform sex acts on the victims, ordered them to disperse all the funds from their bank accounts via ATM, and took them to a snow-filled soccer field before shooting them execution-style. Holly G., Befort’s girlfriend, survived the ordeal when her hair barrette deflected the bullet.
In addition to her previous injuries, she and her friends were also run over with a truck before the brothers returned back to the home to take more of their possessions and murder the couple’s dog. Naked, Holly G. then ran for over a mile through snow and barbed wire fences to find help. During the 2002 case, prosecution said the victim’s first-hand testimony led to the guilty verdict and eventual death sentences against the brothers.
The case gained national attention not necessarily for the crimes committed, but for the Kansas court’s adjustments of the death penalty laws. At the time, the men were tried together and given the same capital death sentence. Both were appealed.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the instruction was not required and would not make much sense, as juries may consider any factor they like in deciding whether leniency is warranted. “It would mean nothing, we think, to tell the jury that the defendants must deserve mercy beyond a reasonable doubt; or must more likely than not deserve it,” he wrote.
The brothers, who were tried together, also argued that their sentencing hearings should have been held separately, as mitigation evidence offered by one may have hurt the other. Jonathan, for instance, argued that he had acted under the corrupting influence of Reginald, who is his older brother.
Justice Scalia rejected that argument, too. “Joint proceedings are not only permissible but are often preferable when the joined defendants’ criminal conduct arises out of a single chain of events,” he wrote.
“Better that two defendants who have together committed the same crimes be placed side-by-side to have their fates determined by a single jury,” Justice Scalia wrote.
Justice Scalia also recalled the harrowing details of the case, arguing there shouldn’t be a second thought regarding the brothers’ death sentence. The Carr brothers and another death row inmate named Sidney Gleason’s sentences were all upheld. Gleason was convicted in a separate killing, a double murder of a couple in Great Bend, Kansas. In 2004, he was found guilty of capital murder for the killing of Miki Martinez, 19, and her boyfriend, Darren Wornkey, 24.
The last execution in Kansas was performed over 50 years ago. “The justices returned the case to the Kansas Supreme Court, which may again vacate the death sentences,” the report says.