By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Keir D. Sanders’ attorney said he’ll ask for a rehearing before the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which by a 6-3 vote this week denied his client’s appeal of a life sentence for the 1985 death of his grandmother.
Sanders went on trial in Lee County in 2008 for a double murder in Tishomingo County.
Among the issues for the appeals court was how a jury could find Sanders sane for his grandmother’s murder and insane when he killed his grandfather just minutes before.
Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner III ordered him to serve his life sentence before the commitment sentence could begin.
“I will definitely ask for a rehearing with the Court of Appeals,” Hunter Aikens, Sanders’ attorney with the Mississippi Office of Indigent Appeals, said after Tuesday’s decision.
Aikens questioned the jury’s inconsistent verdicts, as well as a variety of alleged errors during the trial. The appeal also argued that the overwhelming evidence indicated Sanders was insane when he committed the murders.
If the rehearing is denied, Aikens said he will take the appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Sanders was accused of shooting and bludgeoning his grandfather, W.D. Sanders, while the elderly man was cooking breakfast, then shooting his grandmother, Elma Sanders, while she was lying in bed. He went missing soon after the deaths and was not arrested until some 20 years later.
Mrs. Sanders wrote “KD shotgun” on the floor using her own blood, police testified.
Writing for the majority, Judge Larry Roberts said after a thorough review of the record, the evidence does not weigh heavily against the jury’s findings.
Roberts also agreed Gardner was correct to require Sanders to serve the life sentence before being conveyed to a state mental hospital on the insanity verdict.
However, Judge David Ishee, joined by judges Leslie King and Donna Barnes, disagreed. The dissent termed the murder conviction “an unconscionable injustice” and said the evidence did not support the jury’s verdict, saying the state did not prove Sanders’ sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ishee also noted concerns by a jury question to Gardner, asking what the minimum sentence would be for someone found to be insane and a danger to the public, especially if the defendant would ever be free to walk the streets. The judge did not answer.
Ishee writes that he would reverse the conviction and sentence and send the case back for a new trial.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.