A federal judge on Thursday halted the scheduled execution next week of a man who was convicted of the murder of two Missouri prison guards. The judge’s decision came after questions were raised about the literacy level of the juror.
U.S. district judge Stephen Bough has ruled that Michael Andrew Tisius should have his execution delayed at the state prison of Bonne Terre to allow the court the time it needs to hear the jury.
This delay follows Tisius’ lawyers’ claim earlier this month that a jury in his 2010 sentencing resentencing was unable to read or write.
Missouri law requires that jurors be able read and speak English.
In an affidavit, signed on May 3, by the juror, the juror claimed that “someone in the courthouse” had helped him complete his jury questionnaire.
According to an excerpt of the affidavit in Bough’s decision, “I told the Courthouse worker that I couldn’t read.” The Courthouse employee led me to a private room. The Courthouse employee filled out the questionnaire for me, reading it word-for-word.
The judge is looking for more information. Bough wrote in his letter that a second affidavit signed by a juror on May 7 contradicts the earlier statement.
In the affidavit of May 7, the juror said, “I sometimes say I cannot write or read, but more accurately, I cannot write or read very well.” He added that he approached Tisius’ case with an “open mind.”
Prosecutors said that in 2000, Tisius, Tracie Bulington, and Roy Vance entered the lobby of Huntsville’s jail to try and free Bulington’s lover, Roy Vance. Tisius, then 19, fatally shot Randolph County Jailers Jason Acton & Leon Egley in the attempt to break out of jail. The intruders failed to find the keys to the cells, and the plot was foiled.
Tisius, and Bulington, were arrested the day after the shootings at Wathena in Kan., approximately 130 miles west from Huntsville.
Defense attorneys argued that Tisius only intended to order jailers into holding cells and release Vance and other prisoners.
Bulington and Vance have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Missourians to Abolise the Death Penalty (MOAP) and the Missouri NAACP asked Republican Gov. Mike Parson, citing Tisius’ age at the time the murders occurred, among other factors, asked the Republican Gov.
Parson’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an Associated Press query about Tisius.