Missouri governor denies clemency for man to be executed

Norman Ray
Norman Ray

Global Courant

Missouri Governor Mike Parson on Monday refused clemency for a man due to be executed Tuesday night for killing two jailers in an ill-fated attempt to break someone else out of a county jail.

Michael Tisius, 42, would be the third person in Missouri, and the 12th national person, to be executed in 2023. He is charged with the June 2000 murders of officers Leon Egley and Jason Acton.

“It is reprehensible that two dedicated officials were killed in a failed attempt to help another criminal evade the law,” Parson, a Republican, said in a statement. “The State of Missouri shall carry out the sentences of Mr. Tisius according to the order of the Court and bring justice.”

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Tisius has at least one appeal procedure pending. His appeal and his clemency application focused on several issues. Among them: Tisius was only 19 at the time of the murders; he had been neglected as a child; and a juror at his 2010 sentencing may have been illiterate — a violation of Missouri law.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the execution on Monday based on Tisius’s age when the crime took place. A federal judge last week stayed the execution over allegations that a juror was illiterate, but an appeals panel reinstated the execution. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on that issue.

Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, a lawyer for Tisius, said the ups and downs of the professions are taking a toll.

“I think, frankly, he’s on an emotional roller coaster,” Carlyle said. “He’s quite anxious. He doesn’t want to die. I think he’s angry and scared.”

A 2005 Supreme Court ruling prohibits executions of those under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. But Carlyle said “emerging science plus information about Mr. Tisius’s own brain dictates that they should now change that rule to apply to Mr. Tisius.”

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A lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General’s office noted that both the original trial jury and the jury took into account Tisius’s age and mental health when sentencing, “but both juries still decided on the death penalty.” The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without comment.

Proponents of Tisius say he was largely neglected as a child and was homeless in his early teens. In 1999, as an 18-year-old, he was convicted of felony for pawning a rented stereo system.

In June 2000, Tisius was housed with Roy Vance at the Small Randolph County Penitentiary in Huntsville. Tisius was about to be released, and court records show that the men discussed a plan in which Tisius would help Vance escape.

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Just after midnight on June 22, Tisius went to jail accompanied by Vance’s girlfriend, Tracie Bulington. They told Egley and Acton that they were going to deliver cigarettes to Vance. The jailers did not know that Tisius had a gun.

At trial, Bulington testified that she looked up and saw Tisius with his gun drawn, then watched as he shot and killed Acton. As Egley approached, Tisius shot him too. Both officers were unarmed.

Tisius found keys at the control room and tried to open Vance’s cell, but was unsuccessful. When Egley grabbed Bulington’s leg, Tisius shot him several more times.

Tisius and Bulington fled, but their car broke down in Kansas. They were arrested in Wathena, Kansas, about 130 miles west of Huntsville. Tisius confessed to the crimes.

Bulington and Vance are serving life sentences.

Defense attorneys have argued that the killings were not premeditated. Tisius, they said, intended to send the jailers to a cell and free Vance and other prisoners. The Tisius defense team released a video last week in which Vance said he planned the breakout attempt and manipulated Tisius into participating.

Among those executed this year in Missouri was Amber McLaughlin, who murdered a woman and dumped the body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis. The execution was believed to be the first of a transgender woman in the US

Raheem Taylor, 58, was put to death in February for the 2004 murder of his live-in girlfriend and her three children in St. Louis County.

Four of this year’s US executions took place in Texas and three in Florida.

Missouri governor denies clemency for man to be executed

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