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Court upholds death sentence
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Jury selection practices in Cape Girardeau County comply with state law and didn't result in Terrance L. Anderson receiving an unfair trial on two charges of first-degree murder that landed him on death row, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
Anderson's public defender argued that the list of potential jurors maintained by County Circuit Court Clerk Charlie Hutson contained fewer names than required by law, preventing a representative cross section of county residents -- specifically a sufficient number of blacks -- from making the jury pool. Anderson is black.
The attorney also claimed Hutson exceeded his authority by striking potential jurors for reasons not mentioned in the law.
The court, in a 7-0 ruling, found no merit to the faulty jury allegations or defense claims that Judge William Syler made a number of erroneous rulings that should have resulted in Anderson's convictions or sentences being overturned.
A Cape Girardeau County jury found Anderson guilty of first-degree murder for the July 15, 1997, shooting deaths of Stephen and Deborah Rainwater in their Poplar Bluff, Mo., home. The Rainwaters were the grandparents of Anderson's then-infant daughter.
Anderson was sentenced to death for Deborah Rainwater's slaying and life without the possibility of parole for killing Stephen Rainwater. The trial, held in January 2001, was moved from Butler County.
Hutson said the court's ruling vindicates the county's system for selecting juries.
Hutson said he was upset by the allegations, which he felt Anderson's attorney fabricated as an issue on appeal.
"I've been here for 28 years and always try to be fair in the jury selection process," Hutson said.
'Master list' issue
Terminology was the key issue regarding the jury claims. The law requires a "master list" consisting of the names of at least 5 percent of a county's population, which in this case would have been about 3,000 names. Anderson's attorney said the county's master list included only 750 names -- 1.2 percent of the county's population.
Hudson said his master list consisted of about 42,000 names compiled from lists of licensed drivers and registered voters within the county -- about 67 percent of the population. From that Hudson would periodically select a "qualified juror list" of 750 names.
The defense claimed Hudson's master list was actually a "source list" from which the real master list should have been drawn. The court said there was nothing in the law that prevented the two from being the same.
As to the racial issue, the court noted that while blacks make up 4.5 percent of the county population, 5.2 percent of the 133 potential jurors called for service were black. As such, blacks were over-represented in relation to the overall population. One black member was among the 12 people picked to hear the case.
Among the court's other findings:
The trial judge didn't err in finding Anderson competent to stand trial.
Potential jurors who stated they couldn't consider imposing the death penalty weren't improperly dismissed.
There was no merit to claims that prosecutors sought the death penalty because Anderson is a black man who killed a white woman.
Though the high court's decision ends Anderson's direct appeal, he can still appeal in state court on other issues, such as inadequate representation, and in federal court.
Janet Thompson, his attorney, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday on whether Anderson would pursue further appeals. An execution date won't be set until the appeals process is exhausted or abandoned.
Anderson, 26, is incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center.