Missouri court rejects appeals of 2 death row inmates

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | 5:48 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The state Supreme Court rejected the appeals Tuesday of two death row inmates from eastern Missouri who had claimed their attorneys provided ineffective aid during their murder trials.

The court issued unanimous decisions upholding the convictions and death sentences for Carman Deck and Scott McLaughlin.

Deck was convicted of the fatal shootings of James and Zelma Long during a robbery of their home near De Soto in 1996. His two death sentences were twice overturned, most recently by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 because he had been shackled in the presence of jurors. But at a third re-sentencing hearing, Deck again received two death sentences, which were upheld by the state Supreme Court in January 2010.

In his latest appeal, Deck argued that his attorney erred in a variety of ways, including by not calling additional mitigating witnesses to testify about his troubled childhood and by failing to conduct neuropsychological testing on him.

McLaughlin was convicted of raping and fatally stabbing his former girlfriend, Beverly Guenther, in St. Louis County in 2003. He was sentenced to death by a judge after jurors agreed he had acted with the necessary depravity of mind to be executed but deadlocked on whether that was trumped by other mitigating factors. The state Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in 2008.

In his latest appeal, McLaughlin argued that the judge who sentenced him to death should have been disqualified from presiding over his subsequent claims that his trial attorney was ineffective. Among other things, McLaughlin claimed his attorney should have presented evidence about his mental health and neuropsychological impairments as mitigating evidence in the penalty phase.

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