Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, writing on behalf of Pope Francis, is among those calling for clemency for Michael Tisius, the next person scheduled to be executed by the state of Missouri.
Tisius was convicted of killing Randolph County jailers Jason Acton and Leon Egley in 2000 during an attempt to free a friend. His execution is set for June 6 at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.
“The gravity of Mr. Tisius’ crime must be acknowledged, as must the demand of justice that he be punished,” Archbishop Pierre’s letter to Gov. Mike Parson said. “Nevertheless, Governor, the Holy Father appeals to you for clemency on behalf of Mr. Tisius solely on the basis of his, and our own shared humanity. Our faith teaches us that every human life is made in the image and likeness of God.”
“On behalf of the Holy Father, I prayerfully ask you to consider that Mr. Tisius is now entirely removed from any participation in civil society, and that he has already felt the heavy hand of the state for his serious crimes, and that he would continue to do so even if clemency in the form of a life sentence to confinement were granted to him,” the letter continued.
In 2018, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith added a new directive to the Catechism of the Catholic Church stating that capital punishment is inadmissible in all cases because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.
Archbishop Pierre’s letter was delivered to Gov. Parson alongside a clemency application prepared by Tisius’ lawyers. The application details the abuse and neglect Tisius experienced as a child, his brain damage from childhood lead exposure and epilepsy and several statements from jurors, fellow inmates, a warden and others who have known Tisius.
Tisius, now 42, was 19 when he killed Acton and Egley. While serving a 30-day sentence for a misdemeanor theft charge, he was befriended by Roy Vance, a man eight years older who convinced Tisius to return after his release to help Vance escape. In the course of the escape attempt, Tisius shot Acton and Egley.
The application includes a statement from Vance, who is serving a sentence of life in prison. “I manipulated Mike for my own benefit and if it weren’t for me and Tracie (Vance’s girlfriend), Michael wouldn’t have done this,” Vance said. “He was just a kid. This is my fault. It only happened because of me.”
During his time in prison, Tisius has developed his art skills, painting murals around the prison, including in the Special Needs Unit and the Veterans’ Wing. He has also donated artwork to auctions supporting victims of domestic violence. Several of his drawings depict the Blessed Mother, surrounded by flowers or holding baby Jesus.
“My hope is to erase some of the darkness of my past and to bring some beauty into this world, while I can,” Tisius told his lawyers in an interview excerpt.
The American Bar Association also sent a letter to Gov. Parson urging him to commute Tisius’ sentence to life in prison. The ABA recommends against imposing the death penalty on anyone who was 21 or younger at the time of the crime “because of a late adolescent’s ongoing neurological development and capacity for change.”
The Missouri Catholic Conference plans to submit a letter to Gov. Parson requesting clemency for Tisius, as the conference does before every execution in the state.
Missouri has already executed two people this year. Johnny Johnson’s execution date is set for Aug. 1.