State of Missouri, Respondent v. Michael Taylor, Appellant

Death sentence reversed and remanded on August 26, 2008.

Audio: Oral argument on appeal before Missouri Supreme Court
Text: Missouri Supreme Court Opinion: SC85235

Case Facts: In 1998, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and forcible rape and was sentenced to life in prison without probation or parole. Appellant was incarcerated at Potosi Correctional Center and was required to share a cell with Shackrein Thomas. At approximately 7:30 p.m. on October 3, 1999, Appellant placed Mr. Thomas in a chokehold and strangled him to death. Just prior to the routine ten p.m. inmate “count,” Appellant summoned the guards to his cell where they discovered Mr. Thomas’ body. Mr. Thomas’ body was found on the cell floor with a bite mark in the middle of his back. His right eye had been nearly dislodged from the eye socket. There were abrasions present to his abdomen and left cheek, and his left eye was swollen. There was also evidence that the two men had engaged in sexual activity at some time prior to the murder. Appellant stated to a department of corrections investigator that his “father” from the “dark side” had instructed him to “send” Mr. Thomas to him.

At trial, Appellant’s defense was that he suffered from a mental disease or defect that excused him from responsibility for killing Mr. Thomas. The jury rejected his insanity defense, found Appellant guilty of first degree murder, and after the sentencing phase of the trial unanimously recommended a sentence of death.