The state Supreme Court’s considering arguments in an appeal of a second death sentence of a man convicted of killing two people 16 years ago.

Missouri Supreme Court

Missouri Supreme Court

Michael Tisius was granted a new penalty phase trial after originally being sentenced to death in 2001.  In 2010, Tisius was again sentenced to die after the state claimed he was a threat to kill other inmates during the time he was awaiting the new penalty trial.

His attorney before the Supreme Court, Public Defender Bill Swift, claimed the lawyer in the second penalty trial failed to contest the state’s argument that his possession of a boot shank was proof he would harm other inmates.  “He admitted that he possessed this boot shank” said Swift.  “But he did not admit the intention that was attributed to him by the state in the penalty phase that he intended to use it in a harmful manner.  What he admitted to doing was possessing it because he was coerced by a cell-mate to hold onto it.”  Charles Hurt is the cellmate Swift claims Tisius feared.  A boot shank is a piece of metal inside boots which have been fashioned into a knife.

Other evidence the state used to reinforce its case in the second penalty phase included a statement attributed to Tisius by a jail guard, suggesting he bragged about the murder he’d been convicted of, and a third incident where Tisius mimicked holding a gun aimed at a jail guard.

Before the state’s high court Wednesday, Swift  claimed Tisius’ lawyer in the second penalty phase neglected to bring up fears expressed by Tisius.  “In fact, counsel had information that he’d often requested to be in protective custody because he feared for his life from other inmates.”  State attorney Richard Starns claimed the strength of the evidence backs up the ruling, regardless of the lawyer’s performance.  “The evidence wasn’t wrong said Starns.  “Appellant (Tisius) just believes another inference should be raised from it.  That’s not sufficient to show reasonable probability of a different result in the trial.”

Tisius was first convicted of killing Randolph County jailers Leon Egly and Jason Acton in 2000 during a botched jail break.

Early in 2000, Tisuis and Roy Vance were cellmates in the facility, which is located in Huntsville, Missouri. Tisius was serving a 30 day term.  Vance told him he was in jail for 50 years.  Tisius and Vance then discussed scenarios where Tisius would return to the facility to help Vance escape.

Upon his release, Tisius contacted Vance’s girlfriend, Tracie Bulington, who expressed interest in helping with the jailbreak.

On June 15th, 2000 Tisius and Bulington were admitted into the Randolph County Jail where they told officers they were delivering cigarettes to Vance.

It was shortly afterward that Tisuis pulled a gun he was hiding in his pants and shot both officers.

Tisius is currently being held at the maximum-security Potosi Corrections Center in Mineral Point while the Supreme Court considers his second death penalty appeal.  Bulington is serving two life sentences in Chillicothe after being convicted of two counts of second degree murder.  Roy Vance is serving a life sentence without parole at Potosi.