WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t hear the case of a Tennessee death row inmate who claimed his rights were violated when he was forced to represent himself at trial.
In 2016, WREG’s Stephanie Scurlock reported on the case of Tony Von Carruthers and his accomplice after the family claimed they were not notified that the accomplice had been allowed to walk out of jail a free man.
According to authorities, the two men killed Marcellos Anderson, Delois Anderson and Fred Tucker in the early 90s. They were reportedly kidnapped, tortured and buried alive in a pit beneath a grave dug for someone else.
“They smothered. You can imagine the psychological torment they went through knowing they were actually being buried alive, how horrible that was,” said Randy Harris, the victims’ relative.
During his trial, Carruthers went through several lawyers. Some asked to withdraw from the case after Carruthers threatened them.
Eventually the judge overseeing Carruthers’ case told him that if he couldn’t reconcile with his most recent lawyer he’d have to represent himself. After further threats, the judge told Carruthers he was responsible for his own defense, with two lawyers acting as advisers.
Both men were eventually convicted of the crimes.
But in December 2015, the Department of Corrections opened the doors and let the accomplice walk out of prison three days before Christmas. He escaped death row when an appeals court ruled he should have had a separate trial from Carruthers.
He ended up pleading to three counts of second-degree murder and received a lighter sentence. He was released with time served.
Since then Carruthers has continued to file motions. In the latest appeal, he claimed that he shouldn’t have had to represent himself at trial.
State and federal courts upheld the lower court’s decision.