Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Jurors Will Decide 'Hard 50' Prison Term Question 3 Years after Judge Sentenced Holt in 2011 ; Jury: Court Cites '13 Case

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Jurors Will Decide 'Hard 50' Prison Term Question 3 Years after Judge Sentenced Holt in 2011 ; Jury: Court Cites '13 Case

Article excerpt

The first "Hard 50" sentence in Shawnee County to be decided by a different jury than the one that handed down the original conviction will be heard Feb. 2.

William D. Holt II, now 30, was convicted of premeditated first- degree murder by a Shawnee County District Court on Aug. 18, 2011.

But on Oct. 31, the Kansas Supreme Court vacated Holt's Hard 50 life sentence and remanded the case to the Shawnee County District Court for resentencing of Holt.

At the same time, the Supreme Court upheld Holt's conviction in the September 2010 shooting death of Mitch Vose, 32, in Topeka, and his aggravated burglary conviction in the same case.

After a jury initially convicted Holt, District Court Judge David Debenham, rather than a jury, sentenced him on Nov. 4, 2011, to the Hard 50.

Holt was convicted of killing Vose, who was dating Holt's former girlfriend, Wendy Henderson.

The upcoming sentencing hearing is expected to last three days. About 10 prosecution witnesses are expected to be called to testify. It is unknown how many witnesses the defense will call. Ron Evans, head of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, is representing Holt.

In overturning Holt's sentence, the Kansas Supreme Court cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that a Hard 50 sentence is unconstitutional unless rendered by the trial jury as opposed to the trial judge.

The court noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Alleyne vs. United States, which said a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were violated if an increased minimum mandatory sentence is imposed by anyone other than the trial jury.

The Kansas Supreme Court rejected all of Holt's arguments seeking a new trial based on prejudicial prosecutor statements during opening and closing arguments.

In the Holt case before Debenham in 2011, chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling said Holt in July 2010 traveled from his home in Sylvania, Ohio, to Topeka after being told by Henderson that Vose was her new boyfriend, and she was pregnant. …

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