The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Missouri inmate whose execution was halted in October should get to argue that his attorneys were ineffective because they missed a 2005 deadline to appeal his conviction in federal court.
Mark Christeson had been scheduled to be executed October 29 but his execution was blocked by the Court less than three hours before it was to happen.
Christeson’s attorneys, Phil Horwitz and Eric Butts, missed the deadline to file a federal appeals petition by four months and refused to allow review of documents that might show possible negligence in missing that deadline. The Supreme Court said lower courts erred in denying a request to substitute his lawyers.
Christeson was sentenced to death for the 1998 murders of Susan Brouk and her two children, ages nine and 12, at the Brouk’s home near Vichy. Court documents say after raping Brouk, Christeson forced her and her children into her vehicle and drove to her neighbor’s pond. There he cut her throat and her son’s throat before holding him in the pond until he drowned and pressing on her daughter’s throat until she suffocated. He left her body in the pond on top of her children, where she drowned. He was sentenced to death for each murder.