Federal judge halts execution of Michael Tisius for hearing on juror’s literacy

Michael Tisius, who was convicted of a double murder in 2000, is scheduled to die by lethal...
Michael Tisius, who was convicted of a double murder in 2000, is scheduled to die by lethal injection June 6.(Missouri Department of Corrections, KCTV5)
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 12:48 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - 42-year-old Michael Tisius, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, has received a stay of execution from a federal judge after discovering last month that one of the jurors on Tisius’s case may have been unable to read or write.

Originally presented and dismissed at the state level, Tisius’s legal team again filed to federal courts where today U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough granted Tisius a stay of execution until a hearing on the juror’s literacy can be held.

The juror could not review key pieces of evidence presented in the court such as letters and expert reports, according to Tisius’s legal team. An illiterate or non-native English speaker may not serve on a jury under Missouri law.

Tisius was convicted of was convicted of shooting and killing two county jailers at Randolph County Jail during a botched attempt to free a former cellmate in 2000, when he was 19. Tisius has spent over two decades in prison since his conviction in 2001, and has garnered support from the American Bar Association, Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty and other activists who have urged Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to grant Tisius clemency.

Activists argued that Tisius’s young age at the time of his conviction, childhood abuse and brain impairments affected his decision-making capacity and caused an increased delay in brain maturation.

Missouri has executed 95 inmates since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, and 17 people currently reside on death row. Since November, Missouri executed three people, joining just a handful of states who have utilized the death penalty this year compared to the vast majority of states who chose to abolish or not use the death penalty within the last decade. In early February, 58-year-old Leonard Taylor was executed for the 2004 murder of his girlfriend.