Kahler files motion in Osage County District Court to overturn death sentence – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Kahler files motion in Osage County District Court to overturn death sentence

James Kraig Kahler is led out of the Osage County Courthouse to the county jail after his sentencing, Oct. 11, 2011. File photo.

LYNDON, Kan. – A man condemned to death for murdering his wife, two daughters, and grandmother-in-law at a Burlingame, Kan., home in 2009, has made a possible last ditch effort to reduce or overturn his sentence.

James Kraig Kahler, convicted of the quadruple capital murder and sentenced by an Osage County jury in 2011, filed a civil lawsuit Jan. 19, 2023, against the state of Kansas in Osage County District Court. In the filing, Kahler and his attorney, Julia S. Spainhour, of the Kansas Capital Habeas Office, Topeka, Kan., seek a motion for the court receive evidence on his claims for relief and vacate and set aside his convictions and death sentence.

The motion relies on a state law that allows a prisoner to claim the right to be released on grounds that a sentence was imposed in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States or Kansas, or the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or other grounds. KSA 60-1507 provides prisoners a filing time limit of one year from the last time an appellate court exercised jurisdiction.

Kahler has previously appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which affirmed his conviction and sentence. March 23, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its judgement affirming the Kansas court’s decision. The Kansas Supreme Court subsequently mandated Osage County District Court to execute judgment of the court, with that filing made May 5, 2022, and which set the one-year clock for Kahler to file the current motion.

The motion outlines 14 grounds that allege substantial violations of Kahler’s constitutional and statutory rights to receive effective assistance of counsel and due process of the law, to enjoy equal protection of the laws, to demand witnesses to testify on his behalf and to effectively confront the witnesses against him, to receive a fair trial conducted by an unbiased judge, and to have his evidence heard and decided by an impartial jury. Kahler also alleges the state of Kansas has violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel or unusual punishment.

In a separate motion to appoint counsel and set a status conference, Kahler, who is currently incarcerated under special management status in El Dorado Correctional Facility, El Dorado, Kan., asks for a one-year period to investigate and gather evidence to support his motion.

Following a two-week trial in August 2011, an Osage County jury convicted Kahler, then 48, of killing his wife, Karen Kahler, 44, his daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16; and Karen’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89, on Nov. 28, 2009, in Wight’s Burlingame home. In addition to capital murder, Kahler was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary. During the Oct. 11, 2011, sentencing hearing, then-Osage County Chief Judge Phillip Fromme affirmed the jury’s verdict of the death sentence.

After an almost 12-hour manhunt following the killings, a Shawnee County deputy found Kahler the next morning sitting in a roadside ditch along Auburn Road. The murder weapon was never found.

The current motion might not be Kahler’s last chance to attempt to overturn his death sentence. Although he has exhausted his direct appeals, and his capital murder convictions and death sentence have been affirmed, further appeals are possible. If Kahler’s motion is granted, he will also retain the right to appeal the court’s final decision.

Motion: OS-2023-CV-000003. (27 pages, pdf, 260KB)
See related story: U.S. Supreme Court affirms Kahler’s capital murder conviction


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