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Mo. high court rejects 2 death penalty appeals

Mo. high court rejects 2 death penalty appeals

May 31st, 2011 in News

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld death sentences for two men who pleaded guilty to the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a Kansas City teenager.

Authorities say that Roderick Nunley and Michael Taylor were on drugs when they stole a car and then abducted 15-year-old Ann Harrison, who was waiting for the school bus near her home. They bound her in a car trunk after stabbing her out of fear she would identify them and left her to bleed to death in the trunk.

The courts in recent years have ruled that a jury rather than a judge must decide facts necessary to impose death sentences. Missouri courts since then have concluded that the right to be sentenced by a jury also applies to people who were sentenced to death previously.

Seeking to avoid a death sentence, Nunley and Taylor pleaded guilty to killing the teenager in 1991 and chose to be sentenced by a Jackson County trial judge who had never sentenced anyone to be executed. Nonetheless, they received the death penalty. The state Supreme Court ordered new sentencing in 1993, and Nunley and Taylor again received the death penalty from a different judge - although they requested a jury decide their sentence.

The state Supreme Court concluded Tuesday in separate rulings that the men made a strategic decision to be sentenced by a judge and that their constitutional rights were not violated. Attorneys who represented Nunley and Taylor did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Nunley was scheduled to be executed last October, and a federal judge ordered the execution stayed for the state Supreme Court to consider the appeal.

Taylor was hours from being executed in 2006 when the procedure was halted.