The Kansas Supreme Court has affirmed the aggravated burglary and capital murder convictions of an Osage County man who fatally shot four family members Nov. 28, 2009, in Burlingame.
James “Kraig” Kahler was sentenced to death in October 2011 in Osage County District Court for the murders of his wife, Karen Kahler, teenage daughters Lauren Kahler and Emily Kahler, and Karen Kahler’s 89-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Wight, according to Herald archives. The murders took place at Wight’s home during Thanksgiving Day weekend. Kahler was apprehended in Shawnee County within hours of the crimes, according to media accounts.
Kahler’s defense raised 10 issues on appeal, including allegations of misconduct by the prosecutor and trial judge, challenges to the instructions given to the jury, and an argument the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to a person who has a severe mental illness at the time he or she committed a crime, according to a Kansas Courts news release issued Friday by the Office of Judicial Administration.
None of Kahler’s arguments convinced the majority of the court to overturn Kahler’s convictions or death sentence, according to the court’s published decision released Friday.
The majority held the prosecutor did not commit an error by raising an objection during Kahler’s attorney’s closing argument, the release said. “Although the majority found that the trial judge committed errors during the trial, the majority held that none of the errors affected the trial’s outcome and, therefore, the errors did not justify reversing either the guilty verdict or the death sentence.”
Osage County Attorney Brandon L. Jones, the lead prosecutor in the case, said in a statement Friday he was thankful the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence for Kahler.
On behalf of the Osage County Attorney’s Office, Jones said in the statement that while no conviction or Supreme Court decision can every undo the horrific acts that occurred in Osage County on Nov. 28, 2009, he was hopeful the decision would provide some sense of justice and closure.
Also in the court’s decision, majority reaffirmed its prior decision that the Eighth Amendment did not categorically prohibit the execution of persons who were severely mentally ill when the person committed the murder, the release said. The majority concluded there was “sufficient evidence that Kahler’s crime was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner” to justify a death sentence.
In a follow-up email, Jones said Friday he was extremely pleased with the decision.
“Myself and my co-counsel, [former Assistant Attorney General] Amy Hanley, put in an enormous amount of time and work into the case and so it is very rewarding to see that the Supreme Court held that we tried a clean and fair case,” Jones said in the email. “A retrial would’ve been very tough for us and more importantly the living victims, their family, and other witnesses.”
Jones credited Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and his office, Hanley, Deputy Solicitor General Kristafer Ailslieger, Assistant Solicitor General Natalie Chalmers, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and the Osage County Sheriff’s Department for their assistance in the investigation, trial prep and litigation, and appellate litigation.
“I am extremely grateful for this outcome and hope it helps bring some level of closure and justice to the victims and their family,” Jones said.