U.S. Supreme Court Stays Missouri Execution
BONNE TERRE, Mo. (CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of a Missouri inmate amid concerns that he lost the right to appeal due to an error by his attorneys.
Fifteen former federal judges filed a motion with the 8th Circuit last week, claiming Mark Christeson was denied federal court review because the court-appointed attorneys who took over his case after the trial missed the deadline to file a federal appeals petition by four months. As a result, the federal court refused to hear the case.
Sarah Turberville, an attorney for The Constitution Project, which is working with the judges, told The Associated Press that it is rare for anyone to face execution without having appealed the case in Federal Court.
"Not having federal court review means there's been no independent examination regarding the fairness of the trial and the appropriateness of the death sentence," Turberville told the AP. "No federal court has been able to address these issues at all."
The 8th Circuit denied the motion, prompting the judges to appeal to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Late Tuesday, the court issued a temporary stay, with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito dissenting.
Christeson, 35, was convicted of killing a 36-year-old southern Missouri woman and her two children in 1998.
Christeson, 18 at the time, and his 17-year-old cousin Jessie Carter broke into Susan Brouk's home on Feb. 1, 1998. They tied up Brouk's children - 12-year-old Adrian and 9-year-old Kyle - with shoelaces, while Christeson raped Brouk in a bedroom.
Afterward, when Christeson and Carter entered the living room, Adrian said Carter's name. Knowing they were identified, Christeson decided to kill them all.
Brouk and Kyle were stabbed and thrown into a nearby pond to drown. Christeson suffocated Adrian.
Christeson and Carter were convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. Carter was sentenced to life in prison without parole.