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Poplar Bluff man's death penalty case goes again before high court
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Supreme Court again was to hear an appeal Thursday morning from a Poplar Bluff, Mo., man facing the death penalty for killing his daughter's grandmother in 1997.
Terrance Anderson, 36, was convicted by a Cape Girardeau County jury in January 2001 of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in connection with Debbie Rainwater's July 25, 1997, death.
Anderson also was sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility for probation or parole in the death of Stephen Rainwater.
According to earlier reports, armed with a stolen handgun, Anderson forced his way in the Rainwater home in the 1000 block of Montclair Drive.
Anderson killed Debbie Rainwater before ambushing cher husband in the front yard when he arrived home.
Both died of a single shot to the head.
Anderson then used his infant daughter as a shield for at least 10 minutes while police tried to coax him out of the house. His ex-girlfriend and the mother of the baby, Abbey Rainwater, then 17, ran to a neighbor's house for help.
Two of her teenage friends and her then 11-year-old sister, Whitney, hid in closets.
Anderson subsequently appealed and the Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing in 2006 after concluding defense attorneys should have sought to strike a juror from the case who had indicated a preference for imposing the death sentence.
At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing in November 2008, Anderson again was sentenced to death for killing Debbie Rainwater.
On Anderson's automatic, direct appeal for his death sentence, the Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences in March 2010. Anderson then sought post-conviction relief, and evidence was presented during a hearing before Circuit Judge William Syler, who presided over Anderson's trial and sentencings.
The hearing focused on potential abuse and possible mental defects caused by the abuse. Syler overruled the motion, as well as overruled a defense motion seeking he disqualify himself as judge. Anderson now is appealing Syler's denial of his post-conviction relief to the Supreme Court.
Among Anderson's arguments in his appeal is that the circuit court erred in overruling his motion for relief as his Constitutional rights to due process, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and a full and fair hearing were violated because Syler could not fairly consider his mental health claims.
Anderson alleges Syler could not be fair because, after the first trial, the judge had spoken with the jury's foreman, who made statements discrediting the presented mental health evidence, which Syler did not "buy any of it."
Further, Anderson alleges Syler could not be fair as he had given Anderson's attorney a magazine article regarding his expert witness, which had no relevance to the post-conviction issues.
In its response, the state indicates Syler was correct in overruling Anderson's motions for post-conviction relief and to disqualify.
The state contends Syler was not biased and based his various rulings on the laws and facts, not on the conversations with the jury foreman.
In his brief, Anderson further argues his rights were violated because of his attorneys' ineffectiveness for failing to call several witnesses to testify regarding abuse he suffered and his suffering from psychotic depression, with paranoia, and delusions, along with impaired intellectual functioning.
Anderson also argues his attorneys should have called additional witnesses to testify regarding his disoriented and distressed mental state before and after the murders.
It is Anderson's contention the testimony from these witnesses would have lessened his moral culpability, supporting a life sentence instead of death.
In its response, the state argues Anderson's attorneys made reasonable strategic decisions in not presenting evidence in regards to the alleged abuse, his mental health and his mental state at the time of the murders.
Some of the witnesses, according to the state, were uncooperative and none "would have offered compelling testimony that would have changed the outcome of the trial."
Further, Anderson argues his attorneys should have objected when the prosecutor asked him, while testifying on his own behalf, whether other witnesses were lying.
The state contends Anderson failed to show his attorneys were ineffective for not objecting to the prosecutor's cross-examination
because the "few unobjected-to-questions" did not affect the jury's decision.
Anderson argues his attorneys also were ineffective for not objecting when the court admitted into evidence a protection
order and its related factual allegations since Anderson was not present at the time the order was issued, and he did not have the chance to challenge the accusations.
It is Anderson's contention the protection order prejudiced him because it cast doubt on his testimony in which he indicated he did not physically abuse Abbey Rainwater.
The order, according to the state, was admissible and Anderson failed to show how he was prejudiced by its admission.
Anderson also argues his attorneys should have advised him not "to testify to show he accepted responsibility ? reasonable counsel would have advised him other witnesses could humanize him ?"
The state contends Anderson's attorneys gave him "competent advice" on the pros and cons of testifying, and Anderson has failed to elicit evidence showing he would have followed their recommendation not to testify.
Anderson's final appeal point indicates his direct appeal attorneys should have challenged his death sentence as being disproportionate under the state statute dealing with culpable mental states.
The state contends the attorneys were not ineffective because the appellant court conducted an independent proportionality review and found the death sentence was not disproportionate.
In his appeal, Anderson asked for a new post-conviction relief hearing before a different judge, a new penalty phase in his case and for a life sentence to be imposed.
The state contends all 10 of Anderson's points of appeal should be denied.