State of Missouri v. Michael Taylor

929 S.W.2d 209 (Mo.banc 1996)

Michael Taylor was executed at 12:10 a.m., February 26, 2014

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld a lower court ruling that Michael Taylor cannot claim his original lawyer failed to file post-conviction motions in a timely manner.- May 20, 2008

taylorCase Facts: Based upon Taylor’s testimony at his guilty plea, the evidence adduced in the second punishment phase, and the prior testimony of several witnesses submitted to the sentencing court, the facts surrounding the abduction, rape and murder of Ann Harrison were as follows:

Taylor and Roderick Nunley were acquaintances of long standing. Taylor had nine prior felony convictions for burglary, stealing and tampering, and had absconded from the custody of a halfway house in November 1988. A warrant had been issued for his arrest on December 1, 1988.

On the night of March 21-22, 1989, Taylor and Nunley were engaged in stealing “T-tops,” detachable panels that fit onto car roofs, in the Raytown area. The vehicle that they were using for this purpose, a blue 1984 Monte Carlo SS, had been stolen from outside a residence in
Grandview. While engaged in these activities, Taylor and Nunley smoked marijuana and drank wine coolers. At around 3:50 that morning (Wednesday, March 22), a Lee’s Summit police officer attempted to pull over the stolen Monte Carlo because its brake lights were not working. Nunley, who was driving, accelerated the stolen vehicle to speeds up to 90 miles per hour and eventually evaded the police pursuit. He and Nunley then spent a lengthy interval “riding around” the Kansas City area.

At approximately 7 a.m. that day, Ann Harrison, a 15-year-old high school student, left her home at 6728 Manchester and stood in front of her house to wait for the school bus. She took with her a number of items, including her purse, a flute and some schoolbooks. Within moments, Taylor and Nunley drove by. According to Taylor’s subsequent confession, Taylor was driving and Nunley told him to stop the car “so he could snatch her purse or something.” Nunley pretended to ask Ann Harrison for directions, then grabbed her and dragged her into the car, whereupon Taylor drove away. Nunley did not take the victim’s purse or her other possessions, which remained on the curb next to the Harrison’s mailbox.

Some seven minutes after Ann Harrison had left the house, her mother heard the school bus honking its horn. She discovered that Ann was missing, although her possessions remained on the curb, and looked for her daughter without success. Police were called, and a ground and aerial search began for the victim.

Taylor and Nunley took Ann Harrison to Nunley’s mother’s house at 7405 East 118th Street in Grandview, a trip which took approximately 15 minutes. On the way, Nunley blindfolded the victim with a sock. After pulling the stolen car into the garage, Taylor and Nunley took Ann into a basement room and Nunley tied her hands with a length of cable. Taylor stated in his confession that he sat in the garage while Nunley raped the victim, and then he raped the victim himself. While Taylor claimed in his confession that he “didn’t finish,” blood-typing and DNA testing of semen found in the victim’s genitals and on her clothing established that the source of the semen was Taylor. As a result of this forcible sexual assault, Ann suffered lacerations to her vagina.

After being repeatedly raped, Ann Harrison pleaded for Taylor and Nunley not to hurt her said that her family could pay them for her safe return; she was allowed to write down her family’s address and telephone number, purportedly so that Taylor and Nunley could arrange for
her ransom. Nunley tied the victim’s hands in front of her, and he and Taylor put her in the trunk of the stolen Monte Carlo.

While Ann Harrison, bound and blindfolded, lay in the trunk, Nunley went upstairs and got two knives, a large butcher knife and a small serrated steak knife; he gave the steak knife to Taylor and kept the butcher knife for himself. According to Taylor’s statement to police, Nunley urged that the victim be killed to prevent her from identifying him, while Taylor was reluctant to participate, in part because Ann had not seen Taylor. By Taylor’s account, Nunley grabbed the victim’s neck and attempted to cut her throat, but the butcher knife was too dull, producing only scratches on her throat. Nunley then stabbed Ann Harrison through the throat and in the chest, while Taylor stabbed her two to four times in the torso. An autopsy of the victim revealed six stab wounds to her chest, side and back which penetrated her heart, lungs and other internal organs, and four more stab wounds to her neck. After the stabbing, Taylor watched for a time as Ann Harrison lay in the trunk and futilely struggled to breathe through her damaged lungs.

Ann Harrison died from her numerous stab wounds, especially the one that penetrated her heart. Ann was alive at the time all 10 wounds were inflicted and remained conscious for up to 10 minutes after the time of her stabbing.

After stabbing Ann Harrison to death, Nunley left the garage in the stolen Monte Carlo with the victim’s body still in the trunk; Taylor followed Nunley in another stolen automobile. At around 8:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the victim’s abduction, they abandoned the automobile on a street, one half of a mile from Taylor’s mother’s house. Taylor and Nunley also disposed of a number of incriminating items, including the murder weapons, the bloodstained sock that had been used to blindfold the victim, and the cable with which her hands had been tied.

The stolen Monte Carlo was discovered by police at around 7 p.m. the next day (Thursday, March 23), and the victim’s body was found in the trunk. Several months later, in June of 1989, Nunley described to an acquaintance how he and Taylor had kidnapped a girl named “Annie,” raped her and stabbed her to death. The acquaintance, Kareem Hurley, informed police of Nunley’s story on June 21; and on June 23, Taylor was questioned at the Western Missouri Correctional Center, where he was incarcerated on an unrelated conviction. After waiving his Miranda rights, after initially denying any involvement in Ann Harrison’s murder, and after being advised of Kareem Hurley’s statement, Taylor gave an oral and a videotaped confession to the crimes.

Forensic examination determined that a hair sample taken from Nunley was found to match a hair found on the victim’s jacket; and that numerous hairs resembling Taylor’s were discovered on the victim’s clothing and in the passenger side of the stolen Monte Carlo. Sweepings taken from the basement room in Nunley’s mother’s house produced head and pubic hairs that were indistinguishable from those of Ann Harrison.

On December 18, 1990, some two months before his plea of guilty, Taylor escaped from the custody of Jackson County officers while being taken for a medical appointment. When apprehended a short time later, Taylor said, “Don’t you know what I’m facing, why don’t you let me go.” Approximately three months before the escape, Taylor had stolen some wire snips from a maintenance cart and hidden them in the hollowed-out sole of his shoes, waiting for an opportunity to flee. He used the wire snips to cut through his leg irons, and he slipped out of the handcuffs.

Case facts above updated from material provided by Missouri Department Corrections follow Taylor’s execution.

Legal Chronology

March 22 – Michael Taylor and co-defendant Roderick Nunley kidnap, rape ad murder 15-year-old Ann Harrison
July 28 – The state charges Taylor by indictment with first degree murder, forcible rape, kidnapping and armed criminal action

February 8 – Taylor pleads guilty to the charges
April 23 – The penalty phase begins before the circuit court
May 3 – The Jackson County Circuit Court sentences Taylor to death for the murder conviction, life for the rape conviction, 15 years for the kidnapping conviction, and life for the armed criminal action conviction
May 13 – Taylor files a notice of appeal
August 9 – Taylor files a Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief in the Jackson County Circuit Court

July 1 – The Circuit Court denies post-conviction relief

June 29 – The Missouri Supreme Court remands for a new sentencing proceeding

May 2 – The second penalty phase begins
June 17 – The Jackson County Circuit Court sentences Taylor to death for the murder conviction, 15 years for the kidnapping conviction, life for the rape conviction and 50 years for the armed criminal action conviction, the sentences to run consecutively
September 15 – Taylor files a Rule 24.034 motion for post-conviction relief in the Jackson County Circuit Court

June 20 – The Circuit Court denies post-conviction relief

August 2 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Taylor’s conviction and sentence and the denial of post-conviction relief. State v. Taylor, 929 S.W.2d 209 (Mo.banc 1996)

February 24 – The United States Supreme Court denies certiorari review. Taylor v. Missouri, 519 U.S.1152(1997)

February 23 – Taylor files a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court of the Western District Missouri

July 10 – The District Court denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus in an unpublished order.

August 18 – The Court of Appeals affirms the denial of habeas corpus relief. Taylor v. Bowersox, 329 F.3d 963 (8th Cir. 2003)

March 22 = The Supreme Court denies discretionary review. Taylor v. Bowersox, 541 U.S. 947 (2004)

June 3 – Taylor rifles civil suit challenging constitutionality of lethal injection as method of execution.

January 31 – The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri finds lethal injection is constitutional.
February 1 – The Court of Appeals issues a stay of execution pending review of district court decision. The Supreme Court upholds the stay. Crawford v. Nixon, 126 S.Ct. 1192 (2006)
April 11 – The Missouri Supreme Court issues write to Jackson County Circuit Court prohibiting it from reopening Rule 24.035 litigation. State ex rel. Nixon v. Daugherty, 186 S.W.3d 253 (Mo. band 2006)
April 27 – The Court of Appeals retains jurisdiction and remands to district court for further hearing. Taylor v. Crawford, 445 F.3d 1095 (8th Cir. 2006)
June 26 – The district court find’s Missouri’s method of execution unconstitutional and suggests changes to improve it. Taylor v. Crawford, 2006 WL 1779035 (W.D. Mo2006)
August 9 – The Court of Appeals relinquishes jurisdiction to district court. Taylor v. Crawford, 457 F. 3d 902 (8th Cir. 2006)
September 12 – The district court finds Missouri’s written protocol unconstitutional

June 4 – The Court of Appeals reverses district court judgement and finds the written protocol constitutional. Taylor v. Crawford, 487 F.3d 1072 (8th Cir. 2007)

May 20 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms the denial of post-conviction relief by the Jackson County Circuit Court. Taylor v. State, 254 S.W.3d 856 (Mo. band 2008)

February 24 – The Missouri Supreme Court rejects a claim by Taylor and others that written protocol did not conform to state law. Middleton v. Missouri Department of Corrections, 278 S.W.3d 193 (Mo. band 2009)
November 10 – The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concludes the protocol is applied constitutionally. Clemons v. Crawford, 585 F.3d 1119 (8th Cir. 2009)

May 31 – The Missouri Supreme Court rejects Taylor’s challenge to judge sentencing. State ex del. Taylor v. Steele, 341 S.W.3rd 634 (Mo.banc 2011)