Michael Tisius is scheduled to be executed in Missouri, USA, on 6 June 2023. He was sentenced to death for two murders committed on 22 June 2000. Now 42 years old, he was 19 at the time of the crime, emerging from a childhood of abuse and neglect. He has been diagnosed with neurological deficits and brain dysfunction, post-traumatic stress disorder and dependent personality disorder. Experts have concluded that an older man exploited Michael Tisius’s immaturity and psychological damage to involve him in the crime. The governor of Missouri should halt the execution and commute his death sentence.
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Office of Governor Michael L. Parson
P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City
MO 65102, USA
Email via: https://governor.mo.gov/contact-us/mo-governor
is due to be executed on June 6th. The crime of which he was convicted – the murder of two guards in Randolph County Jail on June 22nd, 2000 – was undoubtedly serious. I do not seek to downplay the suffering caused, but I do wish to appeal to you to stop this execution.
As a 19-year-old held in jail on a misdemeanor charge, Michael Tisius shared a cell with an older man, who initiated a plan to have the teenager, after his release, facilitate the man’s escape. The plan did not involve shooting anyone, but the man’s girlfriend stole a gun and gave it to Michael Tisius to intimidate the guards. It was during a botched enactment of this plan that the two guards were shot and killed.
Experts have concluded that the effects of Michael Tisius’s traumatic childhood and adolescence left him especially open to being “groomed” for the crime.
Four decades ago, in a capital case, the US Supreme Court stated that “youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and psychological damage”. In 2005, banning the death penalty for people under 18 at the time of the crime, in recognition of their immaturity and vulnerability to negative influences, the Court noted that such qualities “do not disappear when an individual turns 18”. Although Michael Tisius’s resentencing lawyers presented some evidence about the neglect and abuse that marked his childhood, subsequent assessments conducted at the request of the appeal lawyers by a childhood trauma expert, a neuropsychiatrist, and a neuropsychologist, as well as a prison expert, provide a far more cohesive and compelling picture of his psychological and emotional state, and how this impacted his judgment and decision-making.
In contrast to the prosecution’s assertion to the jury that the defendant’s future dangerousness made a death sentence “necessary”, a psychiatrist who has evaluated Michael Tisius over the last two decades has said that his evaluations “demonstrate the opposite of any antisocial conduct”, and that he “has made a successful transition to nonviolent living” in prison. A prison expert with decades of experience in prison management has concluded after his comprehensive review of Michael Tisius’s jail and prison records that he has displayed no violent conduct while in confinement and can be managed safely in prison.
I urge you to grant Michael Tisius clemency and to commute his death sentence.