A man who shot and killed two rural Missouri jailers nearly 23 years ago during a failed attempt to help an inmate escape is set to be executed on Tuesday evening.
Michael Tisius, 42, is scheduled to die by injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Leon Egley and Jason Acton at the small Randolph county jail in June 2000.
Tisius’s lawyers have urged the US supreme court to block the execution, alleging in their appeals that a juror at a sentencing hearing was illiterate, in violation of Missouri law.
The supreme court has already turned aside another argument – that Tisius should be spared because he was just 19 at the time of the killings. A 2005 supreme court ruling bars executions of those under 18 when their crime occurred, but attorneys for Tisius argued that even at 19 when the killings occurred, Tisius should have his sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.
Advocates for Tisius also have said he was largely neglected as a child and was homeless by his early teens. In 1999, as an 18-year-old, he was jailed on a misdemeanor charge for pawning a rented stereo system.
In June 2000, Tisius was housed on the misdemeanor charge at the same county jail in Huntsville with inmate Roy Vance. Tisius was about to be released, and court records show the men discussed a plan in which Tisius, once he was out, would help Vance escape.
Just after midnight on 22 June 2000, Tisius went to the jail accompanied by Vance’s girlfriend, Tracie Bulington. They told Egley and Acton that they were there to deliver cigarettes to Vance. The jailers didn’t know that Tisius had a pistol.
At trial, Bulington testified that she looked up and saw Tisius with the gun drawn, then watched as he shot and killed Acton. When Egley approached, Tisius shot him, too. Both officers were unarmed.
Tisius found keys at the dispatch area and tried to open Vance’s cell, but he couldn’t. When Egley grabbed Bulington’s leg, Tisius shot him several more times.
Tisius and Bulington fled, but their car broke down later that day in Kansas. They were arrested in Wathena, Kansas, about 130 miles (210km) west of Huntsville. Tisius confessed to the killings of Acton and Egley.
Bulington and Vance are serving life sentences on murder convictions.
Defense attorneys have argued that the killings were not premeditated. Tisius, they said, intended to order the jailers into a holding cell and free Vance and other inmates. Tisius’s defense team issued a video last week in which Vance said he planned the escape attempt and manipulated Tisius into participating.
The execution would be the 12th in the US this year, and the third in Missouri. Only Texas, with four, has executed more people than Missouri this year.
Amber McLaughlin, 49, who killed a woman and dumped the body near the Mississippi River in St Louis, was put to death in January. The execution was believed to be the first of a transgender woman in the US. Raheem Taylor, 58, was executed in February for killing his live-in girlfriend and her three children in 2004 in St Louis county.
Another Missouri execution is scheduled for 1 August. Johnny Johnson was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing a 6-year-old girl in St Louis county in 2002.
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