The Kansas Supreme Court has affirmed the death penalty conviction of Scott Cheever.
The case has been enmeshed in multiple legal battles over the state’s death penalty law. This is just the second such conviction to be affirmed since 1994, when the state’s death penalty statute was enacted.
“The Kansas Supreme Court has not upheld that many death penalty cases,” said University of Kansas Law Professor Lumen “Lou” Mulligan. “Of course, there’s not that many death penalty cases which come up through the Kansas system.”
Cheever shot and killed Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels as Samuels tried to serve a warrant at a rural home about 75 miles northeast of Wichita.
“The most important issue here has to do with self-incrimination,” said Mulligan. “At his trial, he claimed voluntary intoxication as a defense, meaning he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to have killed someone purposefully.”
The state argued that opening that defense allowed for them to bring their own experts in to determine Cheever’s state of mind. The state’s experts found that he could be punished for the purposeful action. Cheever then countered that such a move violated his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
The U.S. Supreme Court said the actions of the experts were allowed, since Cheever had already taken the stand and waived that right by his testimony.
“The issue on appeal today was really whether the substance of the rebuttal testimony went beyond the Constitutional boundaries,” said Mulligan. “The court said it did not.”
Mulligan says that Cheever has not exhausted his options yet.
“Almost assuredly, there will be another round of so-called habeas corpus appeals,” Mulligan said. “This will continue on for quite sometime.”