The scheduled execution of Mark Christeson, a Missouri man who murdered a woman and her two children, was temporarily halted Tuesday night by the Supreme Court over concerns his case had not been properly reviewed.
Christeson was arrested in 1998 after he and his cousin brutally raped and murdered a 36-year-old woman and her two young daughters. His lawyers, who were supposed to appeal the conviction, as is customary in capital punishment cases, missed the deadline by 117 days.
That screwup makes Christeson "the only inmate on [Missouri's] death row who hasn't had his case reviewed by the federal courts." That habeas corpus review would have been Christeson's final chance to challenge his death sentence.
Last week 15 former state and federal judges came out in support of Christeson, arguing he had been essentially abandoned by his lawyers, who only met him for the first time a month after the filing deadline. From the Guardian:
"Counsel appear never to have entertained the possibility that by confessing their malpractice, they might have aided their client's case," the judges argue. As a result, the judges go on, the two lawyers, who remain Christeson's official legal representatives to this day, have put themselves in a conflict of interest whereby they cannot argue that the prisoner should be given a new federal review because to do so would implicitly involve an admission of their own misconduct.
[image via AP]