JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered new penalty phase trials for two death row inmates after the U.S. Supreme Court said jurors could have been prejudiced by seeing the defendants in shackles.
The court remanded Carmen L. Deck back to Jefferson County and Donald Joe Hall back to Greene County for new penalty trials.
A jury in 1998 convicted Deck, from south St. Louis County, of first-degree murder in the 1996 robbery and killings of James Long, 69, and his wife, Zelma Long, 67, of rural De Soto. The jurors later sentenced Deck to death.
The state Supreme Court later upheld the conviction but overturned the penalty, requiring a new penalty phase.
During the new penalty phase, court officials required Deck to wear arm and leg restraints and a belly chain in view of the jury. The court justified the restraints by saying Deck was a convicted criminal and possibly a risk.
His defense attorneys objected, saying the restraints would make jurors assume Deck was an extremely violent man and would influence their decision of whether to sentence him to death or prison. The objection was overruled.
But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, said the restraints were unconstitutional because the lower court hadn’t shown adequate evidence that Deck was a security risk and needed the restraints.
“Where a court, without adequate justification, orders the defendant to wear shackles that will be seen by the jury, the defendant need not demonstrate actual prejudice to make out a due process violation,” the high court said.
The state Supreme Court also set aside the death sentence for Hall, who was convicted of the 1992 murder of Bill White, a Springfield jewelry store owner. The court upheld Hall’s conviction and sentence in 1998, overruling Hall’s complaints that he too was forced to wear restraints during his sentencing trial.