Death row inmate who killed jail guards requests penalty phase retrial

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court held a hearing on convicted murderer Michael Tisuis' suit against the state Wednesday to evaluate whether he received fair counsel representation in his 2010 penalty phase retrial and whether or not he should be sentenced to death.

Tisius was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the June 2000 shooting deaths of Randolph County Jail guards Leon Egley and Jason Acton. The murders took place at the county jail, where Tisius attempted to free his former cellmate.

Tisius was granted a new penalty phase retrial for July 2010; however, a jury recommended the death penalty, and the Missouri Supreme Court agreed with the judgment. Since then, Tisius has again sought post-conviction relief, which the circuit court denied

Wednesday's hearing is part of Tisius' appeal to the circuit court's denial in relation to events that took place while he's been at Potosi Correctional Facility. 

The questions brought up in Tisius' appeal include whether counsel should have presented evidence to explain why Tisius had a "boot shank" in his cell; rebut any suggestion from one jail guard's testimony that Tisius was "bragging" about his offense; and to rebut another jail guard's testimony that Tisius mimicked or displayed gun hand gestures toward her. 

William J. Shaft represents Tisius and said the factors contribute to how Tisius can allegedly be perceived as a danger to others in the correctional facility and why evidence presented at the retrial was one-sided. 

"It [the boot shank] is not related to the actual killing of the two guards, but it was introduced as aggravation as to why he posed a threat to people at Potosi because it was alleged he had the shank, and he could have used it to hurt someone at Potosi," Shaft said. "It doesn't go to the actual facts of the crime itself; it goes to why he should be sentenced to death."

Richard A. Starnes represent the State of Missouri, countering Shaft's claims.

"While the state argued it's a weapon, the evidence didn't establish that appellant conceded that it was a weapon - but the plea transcript did that," Starnes said. "The appellant that the crime that he was pleading to and the evidence showed that the boot shank itself was an object that could be use in such a manner to endanger life or limb."

Tisius' said he kept the boot shank for self defense purposes.