Mark Christeson is scheduled to die in Missouri at a minute after midnight tomorrow, but no fewer than 15 former state and federal judges are seeking a stay of execution on the basis that his lawyers were terrible. The two court-appointed public defenders who represent Christeson were 117 days late in filing a federal appeals petition, leaving him as the only death row inmate in Missouri who hasn't had a chance to challenge his sentence in federal court, reports the Guardian. In a brief filed with a federal appeals court, the ex-judges accused the lawyers of "apparent abandonment and misconduct," noting that the lawyers can't now seek a federal review without confessing their own misconduct.
The appeals court declined to review the case and an appeal has now been made to the US Supreme Court. Religious leaders in Missouri are also seeking a stay of execution for the 35-year-old, who was sentenced to death for the 1998 murders of a Missouri woman and her two children. A spokeswoman for the Constitution Project organization tells the AP that it's highly unusual for anybody to be executed without having an appeal heard in federal court. "Not having federal court review means there's been no independent examination regarding the fairness of the trial and the appropriateness of the death sentence," she says. "No federal court has been able to address these issues at all." (This man died just 20 months after he was freed from prison, where he served 23 years for a crime he didn't commit.)