The US Supreme Court has granted a last-minute stay of execution to a Missouri man who killed a woman and her two children, citing concerns that his legal counsel was ineffective. Mark Christeson, 35, was scheduled to die by injection a minute after midnight at the state prison in Bonne Terre. The appeal to the Supreme Court, which was backed by 15 ex-judges, raised several concerns about legal counsel Christeson has received over the years, including the failure of some of his attorneys to meet a 2005 deadline to file for an appeal hearing before a federal court. It's uncommon for someone to be executed without a federal court appeal hearing.
A Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman says it's not clear what will happen next for Christeson—but in Maries County, the rural south-central Missouri county where the crime occurred, there is little argument with the death sentence. In 1998, Christeson and a 17-year-old cousin killed Susan Brouk, her 12-year-old daughter, Adrian, and her 9-year-old son, Kyle. Christeson raped Brouk and cut her throat before killing her children. "No matter how anybody feels about the death penalty, you can't find a person around here who doesn't feel it's the right result for this case," a prosecutor says. "It's so very awful."