Selected Court Cases

State of Kansas v. Scott Cheever

The Kansas case involved a methamphetamine dealer and addict who killed a popular sheriff to avoid being arrested on charges for which he was sought. Defense attorneys asserted psychiatric defenses to negate Cheever’s intent. At the request of federal prosecutors, specialists at The Forensic Panel interviewed the defendant, examined the toxicology, substance use, psychiatric diagnostic and psychological testing evidence, and prepared reports introducing significant mental health evidence, including that deriving from a court-ordered videotaped interview of Cheever. Attempting to prevent The Forensic Panel’s specialist from testifying in rebuttal, the defense pulled its psychiatric defense and psychiatric mitigation witnesses and opted to introduce expert testimony on intoxication at trial. The Forensic Panel’s specialist testified in rebuttal to the toxicologist. Cheever was convicted and sentenced to death.


The Kansas Supreme Court later reversed the decision, ruling that it was improper for the trial court to allow The Forensic Panel’s forensic psychiatry specialist to testify, and that the testimony was “extensive and devastating.” But the United States Supreme Court, in a rare circumstance, reinstated the death penalty and reversed the Kansas Supreme Court – unanimously, asserting the legitimacy of psychiatric rebuttal for intoxication defenses.


For the Supreme Court opinion, click here.