Missouri Death Row Inmate - Michael Taylor

Started by JeffcoCitizen, February 13, 2011, 07:43:57 AM

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State of Missouri v. Michael Taylor
929 S.W.2d 209 (Mo.banc 1996)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld a lower court ruling that Michael Taylor cannot claim his original lawyer failed to file post-conviction motions in a timely manner.- May 20, 2008

Case Facts:  On the evening of March 21, 1989, Michael Taylor and companion Roderick Nunley stole a car and used drugs. At about 7:00 a.m. on Mach 22, they saw 15-year-old Ann Harrison waiting for the school bus at the end of her driveway. Taylor allegedly stated he wanted to steal the girl's purse, and Nunley, who was driving, stopped the car. Taylor spoke to the girl and then grabbed her and forced her into the car. Nunley then drove to this mother's house where the girl was taken out of the car and forced to crawl down to the basement. Taylor then raped the girl.

After the assauat, the two men forced the girl into the trunk of the stolen car and tied her up. After Taylor stated he was afraid the girl would identify him, the two men decided to kill the girl Nunley retreived two knives from the kitchen and both men stabbed the girl. Nunley knew the girl was going to die from her wounds. (The former county medical examiner testified the victim was stabbed 10 times and she died approximately 30 minutes later). The men drove to a nearby neighborhood and parked the car, leaving the girl in the turnk. Nunley gave a videotaped conffession to the police.



Killer of McCluer North co-ed & cellmate awaits fate

Oct 14, 2010
St. Charles, Mo (KSDK)--  Another delay in the sentencing phase of a former St. Louis man already convicted of killing a high school classmate in 1995 and his cell mate in 1999 and serving life behind bars.  A hearing on whether he should live or die was suppose to start this week in St Charles County.

Michael Taylor, 31, is currently incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point where he's serving a life prison term with no chance of probation or parole for killing 15-year-old Christine Smetzer, of Florissant, on January 24, 1995.  The high school sophomore was brutally beaten, raped and murdered in the stall of a restroom at McCluer North High School in Florissant.

The current debate is over punishment for Taylor in the October 3rd 1999 murder of Shackrein Thomas.  Jurors returned a guilty verdict on charges of first degree murder in Thomas' murder and sentenced Taylor to the death penalty.

Thomas and Taylor were cellmates when Thomas was found dead on his cell floor at the Potosi Correctional Center.  Investigators say the victim had various abrasions on his face and abdomen, bite marks across the middle of his back, and an eye that was nearly dislodged from its socket.  He was pronounced dead a short time later.

The capital punishment assessed against Taylor was later overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court on the basis of Taylors mental health.

Attornies representing Taylor have argued at length over his diminished mental capacity, his ability to comprehend actions and his ability to reason between right and wrong.  Taylor has gone through extensive mental examinations and evaluations over the past 10 years and a firm decision on his ability to assist in his own defense and understand the consequences of his actions has not been reached.

The penalty phase has now been rescheduled for June 2011 before St. Charles County Circuit Judge Lucy Rauch.  The case was previously moved to St. Charles from Washington County on a change of venue.



Two-time murderer gets death penalty second time around

January 20, 2003

ST. CHARLES -- A jury has recommended two-time murderer Michael Taylor of St. Louis be given the death penalty for killing his cellmate at Potosi Correctional Center in October of 1999.

The same panel that had deliberated just three hours Friday before finding Taylor guilty of first-degree murder took only 90 minutes Saturday to agree on recommending the death penalty.

Robert Ahsens, an assistant Missouri attorney general who prosecuted the case with Washington County Prosecuting Attorney John Rupp, said the death penalty is the appropriate sentence in this case. To send Taylor back to prison for the rest of his life would be giving him the opportunity to kill again, Ahsens suggested to the jury.

Rupp made it clear he shared Ahsens' opinion nearly three years ago when the prosecutor announced he would seek the death penalty in the case. He described the murder of cellmate 20-year-old Shackrein Thomas as particularly heinous.

Corrections officers found Thomas dead in the cell he shared with Taylor. He had been brutally beaten to the point one of his eyes almost came out of the socket and also strangled.

Prosecutors said Thomas had been raped before he was murdered. Another inmate at the prison had testified during the week-long trial that Thomas was killed because he wanted out of their homosexual relationship. They had been cellmates for just nine days before the murder occurred. Taylor confessed to the murder during the investigation.

Rupp said Taylor told investigators he put his tennis shoes on so that he would have traction when he punched Thomas in the face. He then got Thomas in a choke hold which he held for about 20 minutes until his victim's body went limp. It was only because the body was in the way of the toilet that Taylor called guards hours after the murder.

"Two human beings are dead because of his conscious and deliberate actions," Ahsens told the jury before it began deliberating the sentence. "How many people do you have to kill before your actions warrant the death penalty? Certainly, two is enough."

The defendant sat quietly both when found guilty and when the judge announced the jury's recommendation for sentencing. He had not testified in either phase of the trial that started Monday with two days of jury selection.

Taylor, now 23, was serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole when the murder occurred at Potosi. He committed his first murder when he was just 15.

He murdered 15-year-old Christine Smetzer in a bathroom at McCluer North High School in St. Louis County. Authorities said he raped the young student and then drowned her.

Because Taylor was three-months shy of being 16 when the first murder was committed, authorities could not seek the death penalty for that crime.
The mother of Taylor's first victim attended last week's trial and restrained herself in the courtroom. Once the sentence had been announced, after leaving the courtroom, Mary Kay Hazeltine said she felt some relief.

"It's too bad this was allowed to happen again," Hazeltine said of the second murder. "All I can think is that there's another mother that has to go through what I've been feeling the last eight years."

Hazeltine had asked to be allowed to speak to the jury during the sentencing phase of Taylor's latest trial, but the judge ruled against it.
Robert Wolfrum, the assistant public defender who represented Taylor, had used his client's diminished mental capacity and his young age as an argument against the death penalty. Throughout the trial it was the contention of Wolfrum and co-counsel Sharon Turlington that Taylor never got help for his mental problems and childhood abuse. They claimed Taylor began hearing voices when he was 12.

Taylor continues to be treated for schizophrenia, but Rupp said the defendant has been faking his symptoms to help avoid the death penalty.
Doctors who testified for the two sides were not in agreement. One testifying for the defense said Taylor did not know right from wrong when he murdered Thomas. Another who testified for the prosecution said Taylor was making up his symptoms during a 2001 examination.

Taylor claimed a voice, who he called a "father of darkness," told him to kill Thomas. Judges found him mentally fit to stand trial on both murder charges.

The trial for the murder of Thomas was moved to St. Charles County on a change of venue from Washington County at the request of the defense.

Circuit Court Judge Lucy Rauch ordered a presentence investigation and scheduled formal sentencing for March. 6.

Taylor had been transferred to the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron after the murder of Thomas. There, sources said, he is kept in solitary confinement. There were indications he would be transferred back to Potosi where all inmates awaiting execution are held.


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