U.S. Supreme Court gives Missouri death row inmate another chance

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2015 10:00 AM

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out an appeals court ruling that went against a Missouri death row inmate who claims his lawyers abandoned him, putting off the imminent threat of execution.

The Supreme Court had earlier showed interest in Mark Christeson's case by blocking his execution on Oct. 28 so he would have time to file new court papers. He will now get another chance to argue his case.

Christeson was convicted of killing Susan Brouk, her 9-year-old son and her 12-year-old daughter in 1998 near her home in southern Missouri.

He and his cousin broke into the home and raped Brouk, according to court documents. They then took the Brouks to a pond where Christeson cut the throats of the mother and son and threw them into the water. They suffocated the daughter and threw her into the pond, according to court documents.

Christeson's attorneys argued in an appeal to the Supreme Court that his court-appointed attorneys had failed to meet a key deadline for filing court papers in 2005 and then refused to cooperate when the mistake came to light.

The failure to meet the deadline means Christeson's conviction in state court was never reviewed by a federal judge, which is the usual practice.

In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court said Christeson's claim should be heard.

The case is Christeson v. Roper, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-6873.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)