The Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City has upheld the death sentence for a man whose case has bounced up and down through the state’s court system for 20 years.

The Missouri Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City

In its fourth time considering the case of Terrance Anderson from southeast Missouri’s Poplar Bluff, the high bench backed up a lower court’s rejection of claims made by Anderson’s attorney.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision was written by Judge George W. Draper III.  Anderson was convicted in 2001 for the 1997 killing of his ex-girlfriend’s parents and was sentenced to death for murdering the mother.

In its decision handed down Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed contentions from Anderson’s attorney that his previous trial lawyers were ineffective for failing to call witnesses, for failing to object more quickly to questions during cross-examination, and for not objecting to the introduction of certain evidence.

The high bench also said Anderson’s previous lawyers were not irresponsible in asking him to testify and concluded that his appellate attorney had reason to not question whether the death sentence was appropriate.  The high judges also said Anderson did not present evidence showing the lower court failed to properly consider his claims.

The Supreme Court had twice previously ordered new sentencing for Anderson after it found discrepancies in lower court proceedings.

Initially, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s 2001 decision.  But it ordered new sentencing in 2006 when it was revealed that a juror had indicated Anderson’s attorneys would have to prove he didn’t deserve the death penalty.

The lower bench again sentenced him to death in 2008, and the Supreme Court affirmed that penalty in a 4-3 decision.  But in 2013, the high court again found his sentencing to be unfair, this time because the judge had conversed about the case extensively as it was ongoing with the jury foreperson.

The case was once again sent to the lower court with a replacement for the judge who was instructed to recuse himself.  The Supreme Court left the death sentence in place but ordered a new hearing on Anderson’s request to have his case canceled.  Anderson appealed to the high bench once again after the circuit court denied his request.  The Supreme Court’s latest hand down is a response to that appeal.

The murders occurred in southeast Missouri’s Poplar Bluff, but the case was tried 85 miles away in Cape Girardeau on a change of venue from Butler County to Cape Girardeau County.

Anderson killed the parents of his ex-girlfriend the same day she secured a restraining order again him and told him visitation of their three-month-old child would be arranged through the courts.

Read Missourinet’s more detailed background of the case here.