Death penalty reinstated in 1996 double killing in Missouri

Associated Press
The Rolla Daily News

ST. LOUIS — A man who has been sentenced to death three times since being convicted of killing an eastern Missouri couple in 1996 will face the death penalty again, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge's ruling and reinstated the death penalty against Carmen Deck in the deaths of James and Zelma Long at their De Soto home, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The court ruled Deck should have raised his concerns in state court first.

Deck, of south St. Louis County, shot the Longs in the back of their heads on July 8, 1996, after robbing them of $400 and ordering them to lie on their bed at home. Deck said in a taped confession that he shot them so they couldn't identify him. 

Three previous death sentences have been reversed. He was last sentenced to death in 2008. 

But in April 2017, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry said Deck's third penalty-phase trial was "fundamentally unfair" because a decade of delays prevented him from arguing for a sentence other than death. She said Deck's lawyers were ineffective for not claiming the delay was a constitutional violation during the trial, or during state court appeals.

The appeals court said the law was not settled at the time about whether a long delay between conviction and sentencing raises constitutional violations, and therefore his lawyers were not ineffective.

Deck's sister, Tonia Cummings, was sentenced in 1998 to 70 years in prison for participating in the Longs' deaths.