Kan. death penalty case goes to US Supreme Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments this week on whether a Kansas man who fatally shot a sheriff waived his rights against self-incrimination by claiming his use of methamphetamine made him incapable of understanding the gravity of his actions.

Scott Cheever, 32, admitted he shot Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels after a night of making and smoking meth in January 2005. He was convicted of capital murder in October 2007 and was sentenced to death.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned that verdict in August 2012, ruling that prosecutors had violated Cheever's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when they allowed an expert witness to discuss the results of a mental examination a federal judge had required Cheever to take, The Wichita Eagle reported.

In its ruling, the state court found that the Fifth Amendment prevents prosecutors from using a mental exam against a defendant at trial.

When he announced in September that he was appealing, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he didn't think the state court correctly interpreted the Fifth Amendment.

Schmidt will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday that Cheever should be retried. Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal will represent Cheever.

Nobody in eight years of legal proceedings has disputed that Cheever fatally shot Samuels as the sheriff was serving an arrest warrant at a home in Hilltop, where Cheever and others were making meth.

During his jury trail, Cheever's lawyers relied on a voluntary intoxication defense, arguing that Cheever's use of meth prevented him from forming intent to kill Samuels. Lee Evans, dean of the school of pharmacy at Auburn University, testified for the defense that Cheever was too high on meth to make sound decisions the night of the shooting.

That defense prompted a federal judge to order a mental examination for Cheever. The examination was conducted by New York University forensic psychiatrist Michael Welnerm, who testified for the prosecution that Cheever knew what he was doing when he shot Samuels.

Cheever's appeal centers on whether a criminal defendant waives his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination by claiming a defense that requires a court-ordered mental exam.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments