Four jurors and two alternates from the 2010 trial of Michael Tisius have said in affidavits that they would support clemency in his case. Mr. Tisius is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on June 6, 2023. In his clemency petition, and in interviews with the New York Times, the jurors said that mitigating evidence that was not presented at trial would have altered their sentencing decisions. (The image to the left is art created by Mr. Tisius and included in his clemency petition.)

Lawyers for Mr. Tisius contacted jurors and shared details of the abuse and neglect he experienced during childhood, his mental impairments, his remorse for the crime, and his record of good behavior in prison. “I believe that people can change and should get second chances,” one juror said. Another responded to the new evidence by saying, “At this time, based on what I have learned since the trial, I would not object if Mr. Tisius’ sentence were reduced to life without parole.” A third juror, Jason Smith, told the New York Times, “I feel angry and remorseful. I feel that I wronged Michael. … I hated having a part in somebody dying.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that the six jurors represented “an unusually high rate of changes of heart from a jury.”

A U.S. District Court had issued a stay of execution on May 31 to allow consideration of new evidence that one juror was ineligible for jury service because he could not read English. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit lifted that stay on June 2, saying that the lower court did not have jurisdiction to order the stay. On June 5, the U.S. Supreme Court declined review of a petition from Mr. Tisius’ lawyers that argued the Court should raise the age of eligibility for the death penalty. Under the Court’s 2005 ruling in Roper v. Simmons, no one can be executed for a crime committed before the age of 18. Based on a growing body of scientific evidence on brain development, the petition argued that the age should be raised to 21. Mr. Tisius was 19 at the time of the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

Jurors in several other cases have also expressed regrets about their sentencing decisions after learning new information. In 2022, a juror from the trial of Oklahoma prisoner Richard Fairchild said in an affidavit that she would not have voted for death if she had been aware of Mr. Fairchild’s severe brain damage. Evidence of possible innocence changed the minds of former jurors in the Missouri case of Walter Barton, who was executed in 2020, and the Alabama case of Toforest Johnson, whose prosecutor now supports his claims of innocence. 


Julie Bosman, The Jurors Sentenced a Missouri Man to Death. Now Some Are Not So Sure., The New York Times, June 4, 2023; Editorial, Editorial: A mis­car­riage of jus­tice in the mak­ing, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 5, 2023; Kelsey Reichmann, Supreme Court refus­es to block exe­cu­tion for jail­house killings, Courthouse News Service, June 52023.