Debora Green, sent to prison in a plea agreement for killing two of her children, is seeking a trial. If granted, Green could again face the death penalty.

Debora Green back in court 

Debora Green, sent to prison in a plea agreement for killing two of her children, is seeking a trial. If granted, Green could again face the death penalty.

Prairie Village mother sent to prison for killing two of her children says she was not competent when accepting a plea agreement
On the windy night of Oct. 24, 1995, a raging fire demolished an upscale home in Prairie Village, Kan. The fire took the lives of Kelly and Tim Farrar, ages 6 and 13. The succeeding investigation led prosecutors to believe the children's mother, Debora Green, had set the fire. Further investigation brought additional charges that Green had poisoned her husband, Michael Farrar, with ricin, a derivative of castor beans.

The news that an affluent woman, physician, and prominent citizen could commit such heinous crimes shocked the community. Subsequent media attention was swift and widespread, including nationwide coverage. Johnson County Prosecutor Paul Morrison stated he would seek the death penalty.

Green spent months in the Johnson County jail awaiting trial. In April 1996, she waived her right to a trial for the deaths of two of her children, attempted murder of her husband and a third child, and arson. By accepting a "no contest" plea agreement, Green was given two concurrent "hard 40" sentences with no chance for parole. She was sent to the Topeka Correctional Facility, where she has resided in the maximum-security unit for the past four years.

My contact with Green began while she was still in the county jail. I corresponded with her by mail and phone for four years as I began the groundwork for a book on Green and her crimes. All along, Green had said she hoped for justice. In a letter written Feb. 5, 1997, Green said, "I find the concept of long-term plans pretty overwhelming still. Right now my hopes and plans are fairly simple -- to see justice done. If justice is done, I'll be out of here. Then I would hope only to be able to spend a fair amount of time with my surviving daughter, Kate. I would like the opportunity to get a job and support myself decently -- I certainly will never again see the lifestyle I once had, and that honestly doesn't matter to me. Being here certainly teaches you how little 'things' matter."

To help her find the justice she seeks, Green hired Wichita attorney Kurt Kerns. Kerns hopes to provide evidence that Green was incompetent when she made the plea agreement, thus allowing her a trial. On June 1, 2000, Green goes before District Judge Peter Ruddick in a hearing to try to rescind her original plea agreement. Kerns intends to show that the combination of medications Green was taking at the time would have left her unable to make such a decision.

"Well, (whether we have sufficient evidence) will be the issue that will be evaluated at the hearing," says Kerns. "The new evidence is essentially evidence that was there that no one discovered at the time -- the fact that she was on four different types of medications. There are also different problems to address. For one, the fact that there are some concerns with regard to whether she was even competent to make the decision or not. All of these issues are going to be evaluated by the court to see if, you know, she knew, at the time what she was doing (in making a plea agreement)."

Morrison thinks Kerns will have a difficult time providing sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. "Her attorney would have to convince the court that she was incompetent to plead. That's quite a burden," Morrison says. "I will be contesting that. She was very competent and knew what was going on. The plea bargain was an opportunity to escape execution, and she accepted the bargain. It's very common for prisoners to do this after they've been in prison for a while. They seek to escape their responsibility for the decision they made and get out. That's what she's doing."

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