TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned the capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial for the man sentenced to death for killing a Greenwood County sheriff in 2005. The unanimous ruling on Friday sends back the case of Scott D. Cheever, who was convicted in October 2007 for the shooting death of Sheriff Matt Samuels when the officer was serving a warrant at a rural home where meth was made.
“I think about my dad every day,” says Heath Samuels, Matt’s son. “I’ll never forget him. And basically, going through another court trial just brings back the memories of that day.”
Heath says his dad was also his hero. And the death of his father is something he’d just as soon forget. But the justices of the Supreme Court in Kansas ruled this week that Cheever’s constitutional rights were violated when a psychiatrist disclosed Cheever’s psychological records during the trial without his consent. The testimony was based on Cheever’s evaluations when the case was in federal court before it was remanded to state court.
Cheever’s conviction for manufacturing of methamphetamines and criminal possession of a firearm were upheld. So there will be another trial. Lawyers following the Supreme Court ruling say they are not surprised to see the Kansas high court taking a second look at the conviction.
“So far the Kansas courts have reviewed seven capital convictions, and reversed seven capital convictions,” says Legal Analyst and Wichita attorney Dan Monnat. “Mr. Cheever was originally asked by the court to talk when it was thought he would be going after a mental defense. But he never made a mental defense. That clearly violated Mr. Cheever’s 5th amendment right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself….”
Cheever said after his arrest, he was too high on Meth to know what he was doing. That’s a claim that was taken seriously by federal prosecutors who first handled the case. And the Feds asked for a mental evaluation. But the case was turned over to the state for prosecution where Cheever was tried and convicted of capital Murder. That’s where the state Supreme Court comes into play.
A mental evaluation done at the request of federal authorities was handed off to the Kansas prosecutors for the trial. And attorneys now arguing Cheever’s case say that mental evaluation was offered at trial, against Cheever’s will. Thus, the 5th amendment violation ruling from the state Supreme Court. Heath Samuels says he still has faith in the justice system. He just wants to remember his dad while he was alive, not the day he died.
“Basically, I’d like to be able to forget about the day that he was killed and just forget about the guy that killed him and just remember the good times that I spent with him.”
KSN TV – By Craig Andres