Michael Tisius was executed on June 6, 2023, after Missouri Governor Mike Parson rejected his clemency petition and the United States Supreme Court declined to grant certiorari on a petition arguing that Michael’s age at the time of the crime should make him ineligible for the death penalty. He was the twelfth person executed in the United States and the third person executed in the state of Missouri in 2023.
Roughly two decades ago, Michael Tisius shot and killed guards Leon Egly and Jason Acton while attempting to free an inmate from the Randolph County jail. He had become reacquainted with the inmate, Roy Vance, while serving time for a misdemeanor offense. Vance, eight years his senior, took Michael under his wing and began manipulating him into helping Vance escape from the jail. According to court records, Vance planned to have Michael lure the prison guards into another cell at gunpoint and then free Vance. However, when Michael arrived with Tracie Bulington, Vance’s then-girlfriend, he panicked and shot and killed the two guards. In 2010, a jury sentenced Michael to death; Vance received a life sentence.
After his sentencing, a new legal team collected additional mitigating evidence, including evidence of Michael’s underdeveloped brain due to chronic lead poisoning, his good record in prison, and his susceptibility to Vance’s manipulation, and discussed this new evidence with members of the jury. Michael’s appointed trial attorney, who was paid a flat fee of $10,000 for what should have been five years of work leading up to his capital sentencing hearing, did not explain to the jury how Michael’s age and neurological deficits might have affected his behavior or how he was being controlled by Vance. The trial lawyers representing Michael were unfamiliar with available mitigation witnesses and had not begun preparing until two weeks before the hearing, despite being on his case for years. Michael’s clemency petition included multiple juror affidavits stating that this new evidence compelled them to reconsider their earlier decision to sentence Michael to death.