Hawver said he took the case knowing Cheatham had no means to pay for legal services. Hawver also said he never had intended to use his own money to pay for Cheatham's expenses and there was no written fee agreement though the two had discussed a flat $50,000 fee for defense. Hawver also testified that he took the case out of the "heart-felt belief" that Cheatham was innocent of the crimes.
The justices said the fee arrangement between Hawver and Cheatham constituted a conflict of interest and affected the adequacy of his defense. Hawver testified during the proceedings that he told Cheatham he would be taking other cases to make a living and that he also was contemplating a run for governor.
Hawver frequently has been a candidate for public office, including a bid in 2012 as the Libertarian candidate for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.
Biles wrote that the court found it "distressing" that Hawver didn't familiarize himself with the rigors of a death penalty defense and seek assistance or necessary resources to defend his client.
"It flies in the face of common sense that he so effortlessly dismissed the offer from the BIDS executive director to publically provide assistance," Biles wrote.
Cheatham's case is the second death penalty sentence to be reversed by the Kansas Supreme Court in the past year.
In August, the justices ordered a new trial for Scott Cheever, who was convicted of the 2005 shooting death of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. The conviction was set aside when the justices ruled a psychiatrist should not have been allowed to testify about Cheever's psychological records without his consent. Schmidt has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.