State of Missouri v. Bert Leroy Hunter

840 S.W.2d 850 (Mo.banc 1992)

Bert L. Hunter was executed on June 28, 2000.

Case Facts
: On the afternoon of December 15, 1988, Bert L. Hunter and an accomplice, Thomas Ervin, went to the home of Richard Hodges in Jefferson City because they believed Hodges kept large amounts of cash in a file cabinet in his home. With a pistol in his pocket, Hunter knocked on the Hodges’ door and Mr. Hodges’ mother, Mildred Hodges answered. Hunter pulled a stocking mask down over his face and displayed a pistol. He entered the house and grabbed Mrs. Hodges by the hand. Mrs. Hodges became excited and cried out for her son. Mr. Hodges came into the room where they were standing and requested that the two assailants leave his mother alone because she was in frail health.

As Mr. Hodges attempted to calm his mother, Ervin and Hunter began binding her hands and feet with duct tape. She was taken to a back bedroom and placed on a bed. Ervin took Mr. Hodges to the living room and made him lie on the floor. Errirt began taping Mr. Hodges’ hands. At the same time Hunter was searching the house for money and other valuables. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hodges managed to free herself and ran into the living room where Ervin was still taping Mr. Hodges’ hands. She pulled the mask offErvin, causing him to fall on the floor. Ervin called out Hunter’s first name. Hunter returned to the living room and saw what had occurred. Once the mask was pulled off Ervin and Hunter’s name was called out the two decided that both victims had to be killed.

Mrs. Hodges attempted to flee, but Hunter and Ervin caught her in the hallway and forced her to the floor. In his confession, Hunter stated that she hit the wall, bloodying her nose. A rush of air came out of Mrs. Hodges and she became still. The two then returned to finish securing Mr. Hodges. They placed tape over Mr. Hodges’ mouth and nose. Plastic bags were placed over the heads of both victims. Hunter admitted that after the plastic bags were placed on the victims’ heads, he held Mr. Hodges’ nose to suffocate him. Ervin returned and told Hunter that he thought Mrs. Hodges was dead. Hunter checked Mrs. Hodges and determined that she had no pulse. The two then finished looking through the house and left. They removed Mr. Hodges’ body and disposed of it in Jefferson City. The police found the body and then went to the Hodges’ home where they found Mrs. Hodges’ body.

Bert Leroy Hunter was bom March 7, 1947 in Stillwell, Oklahoma.

Legal Chronology

3/27 – Hunter pleaded guilty to Burglaw and was sentenced to two years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

9/19 – Hunter pleaded guilty to Stealing (Felony) and Escape and was sentenced to four years and two years to run concurrently in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

12/15 – Hunter was sentenced to Life in the Missouri Departmnet of Corrections on a charge of Murder 1 st Degree. Hunter, acting with another, robbed a tavern in Amazonia, Missouri (Andrew County). The owner was shot and killed during the commission of the offense which occurred June 16, 1968.

10/21 – Hunter received a Suspended Execution of Sentence in Florida for Aggravated Battery. He was placed on seven years probation.

12/15 – Bert Leroy Hunter and accomplice Thomas Ervin suffocate 49 year old Richard Hodges and his mother, 78 year-old Mildred Hodges, during a robbery at Richard’s Jefferson City home.

3/28 – A Cole County grand jury indicts Hunter on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first degree robbery. Hunter was on parole for a 1969 murder.
7/21 – Judge Kinder allows Hunter to represent himself, and he enters a plea of guilty to all three charges. Judge Kinder also rules that Hunter knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial at both the guilty and sentencing phases.
9/13 – A second psychiatric report which had been ordered by the court, is entered in the Cole County Circuit Court. The report finds Hunter’s understanding of his legal situation to be impeccable and concludes that Hunter was capable of entering a voluntary guilty plea.
10/18 – With Hunter’s permission, Hunter’s attorney files a motion in the Cole County Circuit Court to withdraw the guilty pleas.
12/7 – Judge Kinder overrules the motion

2/15 – Judge Kinder sentences Hunter to death on each of the two murder charges and to life imprisonment on the robbery charge.
4/25 – Hunter files a motion for post-conviction relief in Cole County Circuit Court

7/24 – Cole County Circuit Court Judge James McHenry denies Hunter’s request for post-conviction relief.

10/27 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Hunter’s conviction and sentence State v. Hunter 840 S.W.2d 850 (Mo. banc 1992).

6/28 – Missouri Supreme Court denies Hunter’s petition for a writ of certiorari Hunter v. Missouri 113 S. Ct. 3047 (1993).
10/28 – A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is filed on Hunter’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

5/16 – Hunter files an affidavit with the Western District Court stating he never wanted to appeal his death sentence. He claims he personally did not authorize the suit and does not consent to the court’s review of it. He asks U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to dismiss the suit without prejudice.
8/2 – The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals orders Whipple to dismiss Hunter’s case without prejudice.
8/17 – The Missouri Supreme Court sets Aug. 26 as Hunter’s execution date.
8/22 – A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is filed on Hunter’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
8/25 – A petition for a writ of mandamus and an application for a stay of execution is
A petition filed in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court grants a thirty day stay of execution.

2/9 – he U. S. District Court denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus in an unpublished  order.

11/14 – The U. S. District Court denies the petition again in an unpublished order.

3/22 – The U. S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the denial of relief.

1/24 – The U. S. Supreme Court declines discretionary review.
1/26 – The State requests the Missouri Supreme Court to set an execution date.
5/24 – The Missouri Supreme Court sets June 28, 2000 as Hunter’s execution date.