By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Whether convicted murderer Keir “KD” Sanders gets a new trial or his life sentence reversed is in the hands of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The court heard arguments Tuesday from Sanders’ attorney, Hunter Aikens, and from Jeffrey Klingfuss about Sanders’ 2008 conviction in the shotgun death of his grandmother, Elma Sanders, in her Tishomingo County home more than 20 years ago.
KD Sanders also was tried for the shooting-bludgeoning of his grandfather, W.D. Sanders, just minutes before his grandmother was shot. But the jury found him not guilty of that charge by reason of insanity.
Tuesday’s hearing focused on several appeal issues, including whether Sanders could be found not guilty by reason of insanity at one moment, then know what he was doing when he fatally wounded Elma Sanders.
“It’s an unusual conviction, especially with the inconsistent verdicts,” said Johnny Young, the district attorney who prosecuted the case and who attended the 90-minute hearing.
The court, from its questions, clearly wanted more debate on Sanders’ punishment by Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, who ordered him to serve the terms of a life sentence in prison before being treated and confined for mental illness.
Klingfuss insisted that one of three medical witnesses during the trial said Sanders knew what he was doing when he killed his grandparents.
“At what time did he know?” said Justice James Graves. “He’s not guilty by reason of insanity, and then within minutes, he’s guilty?”
“I don’t know,” Klingfuss answered.
While the court recently voted 8-1 to hear the appeal, new questions showed mounting skepticism about the appeal issues.
Justice Michael Randolph repeated invoked case law to support ignoring an erroneous or confused verdict, and to focus on the evidence in the lone guilty verdict.
But Justice Jim Kitchens argued that it can’t be considered in isolation.
“So, if the same truth is used before the same jury, but there’s no proof at trial that he had the ability to distinguish between right and wrong when he killed Mrs. Sanders as when he killed Mr. Sanders, what evidence is there that his mental state was different?” Kitchens said.
Immediately after the shootings, KD Sanders took off in the couple’s vehicle and didn’t return to Mississippi until he was identified 20 years later in Texas during a traffic stop.