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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Gary W. Kleypas Sentencing
December 8, 2006

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2006

The Supreme Court today remanded the criminal appeal of capital murder defendant Gary W. Kleypas back to the Crawford County District Court for resentencing pursuant to the Kansas death penalty statute.

His resentencing had been on hold pending the outcome of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that was brought by another Kansas capital murder case defendant. That appeal, State v. Marsh, in which the Kansas death penalty statute was upheld, was decided by the nation's highest court last summer.

Today's decision paves the way for a new jury to be empaneled to decide whether Kleypas should be put to death for the 1996 death of a Pittsburg State University student, who was found brutally murdered in her Pittsburg apartment. Kleypas' conviction previously was affirmed by the Kansas Supreme Court; however, a 4-3 majority of the Court ordered a new trial on the penalty phase based on its finding that the "weighting test" for aggravating and mitigating factors set forth in the statute was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, upheld the provision in its decision in Marsh.

The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that evidence that Kleypas stalked his victim can be considered by a jury in deciding whether he should be put to death, provided she was aware that she was being stalked and suffered mental anguish as a result. Sentencing will now be considered by a newly-empaneled jury.

Today's ruling came in an interlocutory appeal by the state from the trial court's decision that evidence of stalking during the penalty phase of his capital murder case was inadmissible as a matter of law. The justices remanded the case to Crawford County for a determination of whether the victim was aware of the stalking and, thus, suffered mental anguish as part of its proof that the murder was done in an "especially, heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner," one of three aggravating factors the state contends justifies imposition of the death penalty for Kleypas.

The convictions arose from the March 30, 1996, discovery of the body of Pittsburg State University student C.W., which was discovered in the bedroom of her Pittsburg apartment. She had been stabbed seven times through the heart, and her liver had been badly damaged, possibly by stomping. Her body was heavily bruised and her jaw was fractured. She then was stabbed to death.

Evidence that Kleypas stalked the victim included several occasions prior to the murder. On one occasion, C.W. and her roommate, Robyn, had returned to the apartment to find the door open. In September 1995, money and Robyn's camera were stolen from the apartment. C.W. and Robyn requested that the lock to their apartment be changed as a result of the break-ins.

C.W. and Robyn had also been receiving obscene telephone calls from an unidentified male caller. The caller indicated that he knew their names and wished to engage in anal intercourse with C.W. After Robyn reported the calls to police, C.W.'s mother bought a caller identification unit for the apartment and the calls subsequently ceased. However, on the night of the murder, C.W. received a hang-up call from someone who was later identified as the defendant.

Kleypas' defense attorneys filed a motion to bar the testimony of witnesses to the stalking during the penalty phase of the case on grounds that it was not relevant to the statutory aggravating factors. The trial court granted the motion and ruled as a matter of law that stalking is not relevant to the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating factor in death penalty proceedings.

The Supreme Court ruled today that evidence of stalking can be admissible, but "that is not to say that all stalking evidence is admissible. Certainly, evidence of stalking where the victim is unaware of the stalking has no bearing on the question of mental anguish," the Court said in today's decision.

"Further, stalking which is so remote in time as to be unconnected to the actual murder would also not be relevant. However, where the stalking is directly related to the murder, is temporally significant, and causes the victim to be aware of the possibility of the violence which awaits him or her, it is indeed relevant and may be considered by the sentencer," the Court ruled.

"In this case, the district court held that stalking was not relevant as a matter of law and, thus, did not determine whether the testimony proffered by each specific witness was otherwise relevant and admissible. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded to the district court with directions to consider whether the particular stalking evidence sought to be admitted by the state is in fact relevant to the question of whether the victim suffered "serious physical abuse or mental anguish" prior to death."

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