The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

With the execution of Aum Shinrikyo leader and six of his followers, Japan looks to leave behind an era of tragedy. 
On July 6, 2018, Japanese authorities executed seven members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo (Aum true religion, or supreme truth), which carried out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack and a series of other atrocities. None of the seven of the executed men were directly involved in releasing the gas on that tragic day; four of those who did remain under a death sentence, and their executions may be imminent.
The seven executed were involved in planning and organizing the various crimes committed by Aum. Asahara Shoko (born Matsumoto Chizuo), was the founder and leader of the movement, having developed the doctrinal system instrumental to Aum’s violence and its concept of a final cosmic war of good (Aum) against evil (the corrupt material world and everyone — from the Japanese government to the general public — who lived in it). Asahara is believed to have given …

The Death Penalty in Kansas

More than 9 years after the murder of their daughter, the parents of Jodi Sanderholm are speaking out to KSN News, as the execution of the man convicted in her murder, remains very much in doubt.

Jodi Sanderholm was 19 years old when she was murdered in Ark City, Kansas.

"I'm sure she, Jodi, pleaded for her life and he didn't give it to her," said Cindy Sanderholm, Jodi's mother. "She didn't get a 2nd choice. She didn't get a 2nd chance," she added.

Arkansas City-native, Justin Eugene Thurber was 25-years-old when he was sentenced to death in the murder of Sanderholm. Prosecutors said Thurber had a habit of stalking young women. They said Thurber followed the Cowley County College dancer home, abducted her, beat and raped her, then strangled her to death.

For Cindy and Brian Sanderholm, life since their daughter's murder has never been the same.

"She was just a very smart, talented little girl," said Cindy.

Brian and Cindy Sanderholm sat down with KSN's Brittany Glas to discuss the death penalty process in Kansas.

Jodi's parents say they feel as though they were robbed of a life with their young daughter, who they said, had a promising future.

"To me, she's always 19, and so, when I see her friends and they're getting older, it's like, 'Gosh, what would she be doing?' 'What would she be like?' Lots of ifs," added Cindy.

"We suffered through it this long," said Brian Sanderholm, the father of murder victim, Jodi Sanderholm. "It's time for you [Thurber] to suffer."

Inmates Serving Death in Kansas

Thurber is now 1 of 10 inmates in the state of Kansas serving death sentences. They are all on Kansas' version of "death row" at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where they are housed on 'Administrative Segregation' status.

--Justin Eugene Thurber, convicted for 2007 murder of Jodi Sanderholm near Arkansas City.

--Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. (aka Frazier Cross), convicted for 2014 killing of William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno in Kansas City.

--Gary Wayne Kleypas, convicted of 1996 raping and killing 20-year-old Carrie Williams in Pittsburg.

--James Kraig Kahler, convicted for 2009 murder of Karen Kahler; daughters Lauren and Emily Kahler and Karen Kahler's grandmother, Dorothy Wight in Burlingame.

--John Edward Robinson, Sr., capital conviction for 1999 killing of Izabela Lewicka and the 2000 death of Suzette Trouten. He is accused of killing 7 women.

--Scott Dever Cheever, convicted for 2005 shooting of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid.

--Sidney John Gleason, convicted for 2004 murder of Miki Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Great Bend.

--Johnathan Daniel Carr, the Carr brothers were convicted for the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.

--Reginald Dexter Carr, Jr., the Carr brothers were convicted for the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.

--Kyle Trevor Flack, convicted for 2013 murders of Kaylie Bailey, Lana Bailey, Andrew Stout and Steven White near Ottawa.

A KSN Investigation concludes it is very likely that Jodi Sanderholm's killer, along with the nine other inmates on our state's 'death row,' may never be executed in the state of Kansas. This, due to the fact that Kansas' processes are either non-existent, or designed to not carry out the sentence.

In fact, it has been so long since Kansas has executed an inmate with a death sentence that it has become clear that the people responsible for carrying out the sentence don't seem to know exactly what to do, or how to do it.

Since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, 22 years ago, no one has been executed. The last time someone was executed in our state was 1965, by hanging.

KSN went straight to the Kansas Department of Corrections to find out why.

"We haven't executed anyone in that time frame, and there's no time table to have any other future executions," said Adam Pfannenstiel, the Communications Spokesperson for KDOC.

That's right ... The state of Kansas doesn't have a plan on how to execute any of the 10 inmates on 'death row.'

Hearing this infuriates the family of Jodi Sanderholm.

"I really figured they had a plan," said Cindy Sanderholm.

"I think it's a little shocking that Kansas reinstated the death penalty over 20 years ago, and there's not a plan yet," said Jennifer Aldridge, Jodi's older sister. "I thought this would have been something that would have been discussed 20 years ago when it was reinstated."

So then, what accounts for the delay?

The Appeals Process

First, the appeals process takes time ... in Kansas and across the United States.

In the past 30 years, the average time between sentence to execution grew in the U.S. from just over 6 years per inmate to 15.5 years.

However, Kansas is approaching 22 years without an execution ever.

Kansas' neighboring states, in the meantime, average nearly 1/2 that time: 12 years.

Our KSN Investigation learned that even when an appeals process is exhausted, the state is not prepared for what comes next - whether that be the actual order of execution and/or the act of carrying out the execution sentence.

KSN sat down with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

"Unlike some of our neighboring states, like Oklahoma, Missouri, that have had a death penalty law on the books longer, that have cases that have moved through the system further, that have actually reached the point of carrying out executions, Kansas isn't there yet," said Derek Schmidt.

"Nobody knows, with certainty, what step would follow, but I am certain we would be closely involved in the legalities if that were to come. That's not imminent in any of the cases," continued the Attorney General.

Because no executions are imminent, the Department of Corrections in Kansas, the entity which would carry out the order, has no process, no time-table, and no injection drugs in stock to fulfill any execution orders.

"There's no plans, no intentions to execute anyone," said Adam Pfannenstiel, with the KDOC. "We'll be prepared when someone tells us that it's time, but, I couldn't even predict when that would be."

Concerning injection drugs, Pfannenstiel said, "There's no reason for us to have a supply or a supplier, at this time because there's no need for it."

The Sanderholms are frustrated with a lack of preparation on the part of our state and what it means concerning the seriousness of Kansas statute.

"It's wrong that we, as a state, have a law on the books that says, 'If you commit this crime, this is the punishment that you're going to get,' and then, we turn around and don't issue the punishment," explained Jodi's father, Brian. "Well ... we need to change the law. Don't have it on the books."

While the family members of victims like Jodi Sanderholm say the process is too long, the Attorney General tells KSN News regardless, it is the process.

"There's no way to move a death penalty case at lightning speed," said Schmidt. "We can do better than we're doing, but, it's not going to be a rapid process."

The Financial Factors

While the Sanderholm Family is impacted in a painful and very personal way after losing their daughter, the state of Kansas and taxpayers in our state are all impacted by the process, or lack thereof. In fact, for an inmate serving time at El Dorado, the average annual cost of incarceration is $24,951, as documented for Fiscal Year 2015. That number, divided by 365 days of the year, equates to $68.36 per day.

However, it costs even more to house inmates serving death sentences and/or sentences in Administrative Segregation.

According to a Kansas Legislative Post Audit Committee reported published in 2014, each of the inmate serving time in Administrative Segregation at El Dorado, comes with an annual cost of nearly $49,000.

In fact, the Report of the Judicial Council's Death Penalty Advisory Committee states:

"According to the DOC, the average annual cost to house an inmate in administrative segregation is $49,380, or double the cost to house an inmate in the general population. Administrative segregation is more expensive primarily because of the need for more officers per inmate." --p. 13/27 Report of the Judicial Council, February 13, 2014

"It hurts me so bad every week when I see my paycheck, and I know I'm paying tax money to feed him," said Brian Sanderholm. Court Costs Death Penalty Case

Further, it is not only the cost to house an inmate sentenced to death. Taxpayers also pay nearly 4 times the price to prosecute a case where the death penalty if pursued by the prosecution - $395,000 per case - compared to only $100,000 per case when the death penalty is not sought.

For the Sanderholms, taxes are added insult to an unbearable injury ... and a grueling wait for justice in the case of their daughter, Jodi.

"[Death is] what he deserves, and that's what the law stated," said Cindy Sanderholm. "So, we need to get the law fixed so we can use it."

"If it was your daughter, your son, it was our daughter, what would you want to have happen?" asked Brian Sanderholm.

Source: KSN news, May 24, 2016

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