JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The execution of a Missouri man who killed a woman and her two children is on hold indefinitely as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review the case.
Mark Christeson still could be executed if the justices decide not to hear his appeal, which cited concerns that his attorneys were ineffective and missed a deadline for a 2005 appeal with a federal court by almost four months. Most people up for execution appeal to a federal court.
The high court issued a late stay of execution on Tuesday, just hours before Christeson was scheduled to die by injection. That stay will remain in place until the court decides whether another review is necessary.
"Every capital defendant deserves federal court review to ensure the guarantee of rights protected under the U.S. Constitution," his new attorney, Jenny Merrigan, said in a statement. "For years, Mark Christeson has been in danger of falling through the cracks and being deprived of that crucial level of judicial review."
The Missouri attorney general's office advised against a review in a court filing, defending a lower court's decision that there was no legitimate reason to replace Christeson's lawyers.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied another appeal from Christeson that challenged the state's planned use of a made-to-order execution drug produced by an unidentified compounding pharmacy.
Christeson, 35, would have been the ninth inmate executed in Missouri this year, matching an all-time high for the state set in 1999. He will be transferred from a holding cell at the execution facility and back to prison in the next few days to wait for the court's ruling, said Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O'Connell.
Christeson faces death for killing Susan Brouk, 36, and her children in 1998. Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, had devised a plan to run away from a home outside Vichy in central Missouri where they were living with a relative. They trekked a half-mile away to Brouk's home to steal her Ford Bronco.
Armed with shotguns, they tied her daughter and son's hands with shoelaces. Christeson forced Brouk into a bedroom and raped her.
Brouk's 12-year-old daughter Adrian recognized Carter by name when the two walked back into the living room, and Christeson told his cousin, "We've got to get rid of 'em."
The cousins then robbed the home and took the family to a pond. There, they choked Adrian to death, slit her mother and 9-year-old brother Kyle's throats and tossed their bodies into the pond.
Christeson and Carter fled to California, where a detective recognized them from photos police distributed and arrested them.
Carter agreed to testify against Christeson and was sentenced to life in prison.
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