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Federal judge halts execution of Missouri inmate amid juror literacy concerns

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A federal judge on Wednesday halted next week’s scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing two Missouri jailers amid questions about the literacy of a juror in the case.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough ruled that Michael Andrew Tisius’ execution at the state prison in Bonne Terre should be delayed to give the court time for a hearing on the juror.

The delay comes after Tisius’ lawyers earlier this month claimed a juror in his 2010 resentencing could not read or write.

Missouri law requires jurors to be able to read and speak English.

In an affidavit signed by the juror May 3, the juror stated “someone at the courthouse” helped him fill out his juror questionnaire.

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“I told the Courthouse employee that I could not read,” according to an excerpt from the affidavit included in Bough’s ruling. “The Courthouse employee took me into a private room. The Courthouse employee read word for word the questionnaire and filled in the answers for me.”

The judge wants more information. Bough wrote that another affidavit by the juror, which was signed May 7, conflicts with his earlier statement.

“I sometimes say that I cannot read or write, but it is more accurate to say that I cannot read or write very well,” the juror stated in the May 7 affidavit, adding that he approached Tisius’ case with “an open mind.”

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A federal judge has halted the Missouri execution of a man convicted of killing jailers during a jailbreak attempt. 

In 2000, Tisius and Tracie Bulington entered the lobby of the jail in Huntsville, aiming to break out Bulington’s boyfriend, Roy Vance, prosecutors said. Tisius — then 19 — fatally shot Randolph County jailers Jason Acton and Leon Egley during the attempted jail break. The plot failed because the intruders couldn’t find the cell keys.

Tisius and Bulington were arrested on the day of the shootings in Wathena, Kan., about 130 miles west of Huntsville.

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Defense attorneys had argued that Tisius intended only to order the jailers into a holding cell and free Vance and other inmates.

Bulington, and Vance are serving life sentences.

Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Missouri NAACP on Tuesday asked Republican Gov. Mike Parson to spare Tisius’ life, citing his age at the time of the killings, along with other factors.

A spokeswoman for Parson didn’t immediately return an Associated Press request for comment on Tisius on Wednesday.

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