The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a killer who brutally beat a 19-year-old man and left him in a field as he chanted the words to a rock song seven years ago.
The high bench agreed with a circuit court’s determination that there was not sufficient evidence to support the option of manslaughter charges for Keith Meiners. Meiners of Overland, near St. Louis, was 21 when he was given a 25-year sentence for second-degree murder for the death of James “JJ” Willman in 2010.
According to court documents, Meiners stomped and punched Willman, who was covered in blood, until he was no longer moving or making a sound.
The Supreme Court also agreed that at the time of Meiner’s appeal, a law which has since been changed, did not clearly require an instruction be given for involuntary manslaughter as a lesser-included instruction of second-degree murder.
The decision was written by Judge Mary R. Russell, who was joined by four other judges.
Chief Justice Zel M. Fischer concurred with the decision, but added Meiners’ appeals lawyer’s performance was well below the professional standard of care.
Still, Fischer said Meiners failed to show any reasonable probability his conviction would have been reversed on appeal had the involuntary manslaughter issue been raised.
In his lone dissent, Judge Paul C. Wilson said he would have found that, even based on the law at the time, Meiners was not given effective representation from the appeals attorney, which is constitutionally guaranteed. Wilson said he would’ve reversed the conviction and offered relief for Meiners.