Missouri Man Whose Death Sentence Was Overturned 3 Times Is Executed

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
May 3, 2022 Updated: May 4, 2022

A Missouri man who killed a couple during a robbery at their rural home more than a quarter of a century ago was put to death Tuesday.

Carman Deck, 56, died by injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. His fate was sealed a day earlier when neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor Republican Gov. Mike Parson stepped in to halt the execution. Deck’s death sentence was overturned three times before for procedural issues.

Deck mouthed a few inaudible words as the 5 grams of pentobarbital were administered, then puffed out a couple of breaths before all movement stopped, the process lasting just a few seconds.

“My hope is that one day the world will find peace and that we all will learn to be kind and loving to one another,” Deck said in a written final statement. “We all are a part of this journey through life, connected in every way. Please give love, show love, BE LOVE!”

Parson, in a statement, said the couple killed, James and Zelma Long, “were innocent victims of Carman Deck’s heinous violence. Tonight, justice was served.”

Court records show that Deck, of the St. Louis area, was a friend of the grandson of the Longs, who lived in De Soto, about 45 miles southwest of St. Louis. He knew the couple, in their late 60s, kept a safe in their home.

In July 1996, Deck and his sister stopped at the home under the guise of asking directions. Deck wasn’t surprised the couple let them in.

“They’re country folks,” Deck told a detective, according to court records. “They always do.”

Once inside, Deck pulled a gun from his waistband. At Deck’s command, Zelma Long opened the safe and removed jewelry, then got $200 from her purse and more money hidden in a canister.

Deck ordered the couple to lie on their stomachs on their bed. Court records said Deck stood there for 10 minutes deciding what to do, then shot James Long twice in the head before doing the same thing to Zelma Long.

A tip alerted police to Deck, and he was arrested later that night outside his sister’s apartment building in St. Louis County. The decorative tin canister from the Long home was on the floorboard of his car.

Prosecutors said Deck later gave a full account of the killings in oral, written, and audiotaped statements. He was sentenced to death in 1998, but the Missouri Supreme Court tossed the sentence due to errors by Deck’s trial lawyer.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out his second sentence in 2005, citing the prejudice caused by Deck being shackled in front of the sentencing jury.

He was sentenced to death for a third time in 2008. Nine years later, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry determined that “substantial” evidence arguing against the death penalty in Deck’s first two penalty phases was unavailable for the third because witnesses had died, couldn’t be found, or declined to cooperate.

In October 2020, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored the death penalty, ruling that Deck should have raised his concern first in state court, not federal court. Appeals of that ruling were unsuccessful.

The clemency petition on behalf of Deck cited abuse he suffered as a child, including beatings that left welts and sexual abuse. It said he and his siblings often were left alone without food. Deck’s attorney, Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, said in a statement that Deck also was raped while in prison for theft at age 19.

“This experience transformed him from a non-violent thief into the person who committed two terrible murders,” Carlyle said. She called his execution “unjust and immoral.”

Four other people have been executed in the United States in 2022—Donald Anthony Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle in Oklahoma, Matthew Reeves in Alabama, and Carl Wayne Buntio last month in Texas. Eleven people were executed in the United States last year.