September 3, 2015

Several new Missouri laws effect drivers and boaters

Several new laws regarding Missouri drivers and boaters have gone into effect.

Four-lane highwayOne of those allows motorcycles to have extra white and amber lighting. Highway Patrol Captain John Hotz says that could save some riders’ lives.

“Hopefully people can see them when they’re out there driving around, that they will be more visible and less likely for somebody to either pull out in front of them or to make a left turn, or to cross the roadway in front of them,” said Hotz.

The law allows specifically for white or amber lighting that does not flash, and is aimed at the motorcycles engine or drivetrain so it doesn’t interfere with the rider’s vision.

Another new law increases the length of time a drunk driving offender must have an ignition interlock device on a vehicle, each time it is tampered with or when it detects alcohol above the allowed amount.

“People tamper with it, they try to get other people to blow into the device so that it won’t pick up the alcohol,” said Hotz. “There is a fair amount of possibilities out there for people to tamper.”

Other bills change what fire extinguishers are required on boats on Missouri waterways, increase the weight limit for trucks hauling agricultural products, and change the definition of a “junk” vehicle.

For the Patrol’s summary of other laws effecting highway and waterway traffic, click here.

Missouri executes second man for ’89 murder of Kansas City teen

Missouri has executed the second of two men who kidnapped, raped and murdered a 15-year-old Kansas City girl in 1989.

Roderick Nunley (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Roderick Nunley (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Roderick Nunley was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre. His official time of death was 9:09 p.m.  He offered no final statement.

Nunley’s execution comes 19 months after Missouri executed in the same room his partner in those crimes, Michael Taylor.

Nunley and Taylor admitted to kidnapping Harrison the morning of March 22, 1989, while she was waiting for her school bus. They took her to Taylor’s mother’s house, forced her to crawl to the basement, and Taylor raped her. After that the two men forced her into a stolen car, tied her up, and decided to kill her to prevent her from identifying them. Both men stabbed her before leaving her to die in the trunk of the car, parked in a nearby neighborhood.

Ann Harrison

Ann Harrison

Nunley’s attorneys entered several attempts in the state and U.S. Supreme Courts seeking to block his execution. They claimed his death sentence was improper because it was handed down by a judge and not a jury, that the death penalty is cruel and unusual and would violate his constitutional rights, and argued that the state keeping secret the maker of the pentobarbital it uses to carry out executions prevents him from challenging whether it is safe.

One attorney sought to have the warrant for Nunley’s execution pulled by questioning the competency of his attorney, Jennifer Herndon. That argument was based largely on a June article on Herndon and the effect on her of five of her clients having been executed since November, 2013.

Those efforts were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, however, and Governor Jay Nixon (D) then denied a request for clemency for Nunley.

“I ask that Missourians remember Ann Harrison at this time and keep her parents, Bob and Janel Harrison, and the Harrison family in your thoughts and prayers,” Nixon wrote in a statement.

 

Missouri is next scheduled to execute Kimber Edwards on October 6. He was sentenced to death for hiring another man to murder his ex-wife 15 years ago.

More Missouri bridges predicted to close

Four bridges in Missouri are already closed because of their deteriorating condition, and one Transportation Department official says more will close in the coming year.

The Route H bridge over the Cuivre River in Lincoln County (photo courtesy; the Missouri Department of Transportation)

The Route H bridge over the Cuivre River in Lincoln County is still open but has a 10-ton weight limit; too low to allow a school bus full of children.   (photo courtesy; the Missouri Department of Transportation)

Based on the latest round of inspections there are 641 bridges in Missouri considered to be in the worst condition possible before they must be closed, while having no funds targeted at their repair or replacement. That’s an increase of 50 bridges from last year.

State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman says most bridges are built to last 50 years but those 641 are generally between 60 and 85 years old.

“They’re spread all across the state,” Heckman told Missourinet. “They’re in rural areas, they’re in urban areas, some are over streams, some are overpasses, some are over railroads. Just every kind of bridge you can think of. They’re all just getting too old.”

Heckman said knowing which of those will be the next to close is difficult to predict.

“If a really heavy load goes across a bridge, gets overloaded, you never know how that’s going to go,” said Heckman. “I’m not saying these 640 are going to close in the next year, but there’s going to be some, that’s for sure.”

Pressed to offer a guess how many, Heckman said his boss asked him to make a similar projection as part of a discussion about public safety.

“Anywhere from one to fifteen would be a guess,” said Heckman, adding that would be on top of the four already closed.

MODOT map of bridges with weight restrictions due to diminished condition

MODOT map or bridges listed in “critical” condition

He said like most issues facing the Transportation Department, this is one of funding.

“There hasn’t been a tax increase for transportation since the late 90s, and everybody gets better gas mileage, and of course when you throw inflation in there we just don’t have the purchasing power we used to have,” said Heckman.

The department said of its 10,376 bridges on state highways, some 50 to 100 get added to the list of those in “critical condition” each year. That is based on a federal rating scale in which a bridge rated a “9” is in the best condition and one rated a “2” is closed. A “1” rating is given to a bridge that has collapsed.

Heckman said the bridges on the “critical” list rank a “3” or “4.”

To get caught up in bridge repair and replacement, Heckman said the Department would need to be working on about 100 bridges a year. With current funding levels it is only working on about 30 a year.

He said in deciding which 30 to work on, MODOT relies on input from local officials.

“We look at thinks like detour length, daily traffic, we even get down to the level of looking at are we splitting a school district, are you right in the middle of an ambulance or fire district,” said Heckman.

Heckman said inspections of bridges will continue and said those bridges that remain open to traffic are safe.

Retired detective says Missouri has taken too long in executing Nunley

A man who investigated the murder of a 15-year-old girl in Kansas City in 1989 says the second execution of one of her killers has taken too long in coming.

Roderick Nunley

Roderick Nunley

It’s been more than 26 years since Ann Harrison was abducted while waiting for her school bus, raped, fatally stabbed, and left in the trunk of a stolen car to die. Six months later a tip led authorities to Michael Taylor, and he led them to his accomplice, Roderick Nunley.

Nunley’s execution is scheduled to happen Tuesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre. Retired Kansas City Police detective Pete Edlund’s squad investigated the case.

“They’re finally getting around to executing Roderick Nunley after they executed Michael Taylor last year,” said Edlund.

He thinks it’s taken too long for that sentence to be carried out.

“They admit they did it. The fact that we have to draw this out at ad infinitum for years and years and years is a real travesty of real justice,” said Edlund.

Michael Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Michael Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

He said Harrison’s one of the cases he’ll never forget, in part because he knew her family. Her father and uncle were in law enforcement.

“He parents and her sister are the nicest, sweetest people you could ever hope to meet,” said Edlund. “They are so kind, so giving.”

Edlund said when Taylor and Nunley confessed to killing Harrison, they bragged about the crimes. Nunley, he said, was angry with Taylor, accusing him of taking too much credit.

“He resented the fact that Michael Taylor was taking credit for leading the two of them to commit this crime, versus, in reality, Roderick was the one,” said Edlund.

Nunley’s attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution arguing that it would violate his constitutional rights and that he is entitled to sentencing by a jury. His conviction and sentencing were handed down by a judge.

If those and any other appeals are unsuccessful, and if Governor Jay Nixon (D) declines to grant clemency, Nunley will be executed by lethal injection between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 5:59 p.m. Wednesday.

New municipal court law concerns Missouri Municipal League

A state law that took effect on Friday tells municipalities they can make less revenue from traffic tickets and fines than they were allowed under the Macks Creek law. The Missouri Municipal League calls the municipal court reform bill that is now law an “overreach.”

Missouri Municipal League Deputy Director Richard Sheets

Missouri Municipal League Deputy Director Richard Sheets

State lawmakers and the governor said cities were abusing the municipal court system and making too much revenue. They wanted lower limits on that revenue and new standards, reporting mandates, and enforcement options. Senate Bill 5 includes new standards and reporting requirements and lowers the cap to 12.5-percent in St. Louis County and to 20-percent in the rest of the state.

Earlier story:  Missouri governor signs municipal court reform bill with ‘real teeth’

Deputy Director Richard Sheets says the tighter limits on revenue would hurt public safety, primarily in smaller cities in outstate Missouri.

“Cities weren’t using this money to operate their general operations. They were primarily using this money to help fund their police department and maybe their municipal court,” said Sheets. “Those cities that might have been too aggressive in their traffic control are very few.”

Sheets says the League isn’t sure how new reporting mandates and standards might mesh with municipal court reforms the state Supreme Court is preparing. It also has concerns about the new limit to fines of $300 and that cities can no longer issue warrants to whose who fail to appear for a traffic violation.

“The concern there is that will encourage violators to avoid prosecution and just not come back to court and not pay their fine,” said Sheets.

Sheets says the League and its attorneys are weighing its best options for litigation or future legislation regarding the new law.