Justin Thurber death sentence to get another court hearing

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Justin Thurber defense attorneys were back in court on Friday, to talk to a judge about whether or not Thurber will be considered developmentally disabled. That could decide whether or not he is eventually put to death for the murder of Jodi Sanderholm.

The Kansas Supreme Court changed the rules on what is considered mentally disabled. Mental disability was brought up by Thurber’s attorneys during his 2009 trial before he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Attorneys for Thurber were in court, alongside the assistant Attorney General for Kansas. 

“The parties (defense attorneys) would be allowed to present additional evidence that existed at or before Mr. Thurber’s sentencing in 2009,” said Kansas assistant Attorney General, Jessica Domme. “If for some reason, based on current medical standards of disability, if anyone wants to present evidence, they can do that now.”

The state Supreme Court moved the question of Thurber and mental disability to a lower court. That question, with the new state rules on executing someone with even a mild disability, will now be heard in district court in Cowley County.

Judge Nicholas St. Peter on Friday set a date of March 19 for a status conference on what attorneys from both sides may bring forward.

Jodi Sanderholm’s mother remains upbeat even though she and the family is having to go over Jodi’s death once more.

“To me they’re using her (Jodi’s) case as an example to further cases later on,” said Jodi’s mother, Cindy Sanderholm. “You know, whatever we can do… Jodi’s life, to help to make it easier for the next person, so be it.”

Cindy Sanderholm also hopes people will take a moment to remember her daughter, and not Justin Thurber.

“We hope the attention is more on Jodi and the wonderful life she lived,” said Cindy. “Beautiful girl. Smart. Intelligent. A one-of-a-kind.”

While the family members still feel strongly that Thurber should be put to death, they say they remain hopeful this case will set a precedent.

“If there’s mental disability used as a defense in the future, we hope this case helps victims and their families,” said Cindy. “Something good is always coming out of it so Jodi’s death isn’t going to be in vain after all and it’s going to help others.”

Judge St. Peter also says there will be a hearing in about six months to move the case forward.

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