Mississippi Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, February 27, 2008, 09:43:21 PM

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February 27, 2008, 09:43:21 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:46:55 AM by Jeff1857
The Mississippi Senate today passed a bill that would authorize the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping or sexually battering a child under the age of 13.

Under current law, the maximum penalty for such a crime is imprisonment for life.

"There are two reasons this is a good piece of legislation," said Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville. "One of them obviously is retribution. The other is simply that this could be a deterrence."

The principal author of Senate Bill 2596 was Senate Judiciary A Chairman Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, but McDaniel handled it on the floor.

Asked whether he believed the new law could hinder prosecution, McDaniel said: "We didn't mandate this. It's simply an option for prosecutors to consider."

The bill passed unanimously among those senators present without discussion.
I agree with this completely. I think though it will be all be contingent when the Supremes hear the Kennedy case and the ruling on that.
<See Supreme Court subforum>


I know I posted yesterday on a different thread, NV's law is at least mantatory LWOP.  There are defense lawyers who won't even take a case if it involves a sexual assault of a person under 14.   If you are convicted it's LWOP, nothing less. 


May 16, 2008, 07:47:57 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:48:47 AM by Jeff1857
TUPELO - In 1998, Dale Leo Bishop helped murder Mark Gentry in Saltillo.

Now, he's on death row and is one of five condemned men asking the U.S. District Court to declare the state's lethal injection method unconstitutional.

Also among the five is Earl Wesley Berry, convicted in the 1987 death of Mary Bounds in Chickasaw County. He is scheduled to be executed next week.

Berry's case has been in the headlines since last fall, when his defense attorneys sought to stop his execution. Just hours before he was to die, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the action as it considered a Kentucky case that also objected to how lethal injections were carried out.

In mid-April, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Kentucky case, established a standard for the execution method and cleared the way for states to resume executions.

Bishop, meanwhile, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rehear his case after the 5th Circuit denied it. No execution date has been set for the man whose hammer became a weapon of death.


Bishop was convicted of capital murder, meaning he was committing another felony when the murder occurred. In this case, it was kidnapping.

While Bishop didn't testify at his Lee County trial, he gave police a detailed statement that was admitted into evidence.

According to the statement:

About 10:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 1998, Gentry, Bishop and three others went to a Saltillo apartment. Some of them left for beer; when they discovered the store was closed, they headed back to the apartment.

On the way, Jessie Johnson asked Gentry why he had "ratted on" his brother. Gentry denied doing so. Johnson grabbed a hammer and hit Gentry between the eyes. Bishop, a carpenter, admitted the hammer belonged to him.

A beating ensued, with Bishop helping to hold Gentry. At one point, Gentry jumped out of the car and ran. Johnson told Bishop to catch him.

After about five minutes, Bishop came back with Gentry and forced him to his knees in front of the car. He and Johnson resumed the beating, with Johnson striking Gentry numerous times with the hammer. At one point, Johnson asked another passenger to hold Gentry while Bishop got beers for himself and Johnson.

They threw Gentry into the bushes, returned to their friends' apartment, washed up and changed into some clean clothes. They talked about finding a shovel to bury Gentry.

After they left, the apartment's residents called the police and took them to the murder site, where Gentry's body was recovered. Bishop and Johnson ran into the woods and were captured Dec. 13.

Johnson was tried in Tishomingo County and a jury sentenced him to life without parole.

Bishop's appeal process began in 2003. He claimed ineffective counsel, that the death sentence was too harsh, errors and omissions by the trial judge, unfair trial, claims of mental retardation and other issues.

The state Supreme Court rejected all his assertions.

One notable aspect of his appeal is a claim he is mentally deficient and that his attorneys should have offered that information to mitigate his sentence.

However, the Supreme Court record shows Bishop instructed his counsel not to oppose the death penalty and waived sentencing by the jury.

In fact, after his guilty verdict was read, Bishop was given an opportunity to address the court and said "I'm sorry for what happened to Mark. Mark was my friend. You know, I - I thought Mark needed his ass kicked. I did. I didn't know Jessie was gonna go all out like that. ... For what I did, I deserve to die. I ain't gonna ask this court to spare my life and let me grow old."

Then he said to the judge: "...I'm asking you to ... kill me for what I done. I deserve it. I know it. I want you to sentence me to death."

Moments later, the judge responded: "Mr. Bishop, I'm gonna grant your wish."

"Thank you," Bishop said.


Bishop and his co-plaintiffs aren't arguing that they didn't commit the crimes they were convicted of. They say Mississippi's method of lethal injection is unconstitutional - inhumane and too harsh of a sentence.

The state's process involves three injections during a span of a few minutes: pentothal, thiopental and pancuronium.

The plaintiffs argue the state has no good way to be sure the condemned is sufficiently anesthetized to unconsciousness so he or she doesn't feel pain.

When Bobby Glen Wilcher was executed at Parchman in 2006, he wasn't pronounced dead until more than 11 minutes after the final injection, they say the execution log shows.

In other states, the procedures typically is accomplished in less than 5 minutes, the appeal states.

"Because Mr. Wilcher was paralyzed by pancuronium we do not know what he was experiencing during the 10-minute period between the pancuronium injection and the pronouncement of death."

The U.S. Supreme Court approved a similar procedure in Kentucky, but the appeals attorneys say it's not the same as the Mississippi method.
Hopefully Bishop will get his date soon too.


Epps, Hood hope for speedier executions

Attorney General Jim Hood and Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps are of a single mind: more executions are better for Mississippi.

Hood told reporters after last Wednesday's execution of Earl Wesley Berry that Mississippi could execute three more death row inmates by the end of 2008.

Department of Corrections officials privately said they expect another execution could come before the end of summer.

Any execution, Epps insists, would be of dual importance - lifting an emotional burden off the families of the victims and reducing the financial burden on the state caused by inmates sitting on death row for 20 years or more.

Some of the 35 states that use lethal injection moved swiftly to schedule executions put on hold for 7 months while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a Kentucky case arguing that lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. Berry's execution was the second since that ruling.

But death row inmates in other states continue to press legal challenges on similar grounds, and federal courts held separate hearings Wednesday on 2 such cases.

Berry, 49, was sentenced in 1988 to die for the 1987 beating death of Mary Bounds, whom he abducted outside a Houston, Miss., church and left dead on the side of a rural road in Chickasaw County.

Epps said it costs $14,000 to execute an inmate, much of that coming for the overtime of staff needed to prepare and perform the lethal injection.

He said it costs more than $350,000 to incarcerate Berry over the past 20 years.

The figure is an approximate based on the per diem cost of housing a maximum security inmate for the period of years of Berry's incarceration since he was sentenced for capital murder, Mississippi Department of Corrections officials said.

Expense aside, Epps said, there is the wear and tear on the victims' families.

"For Mrs. Bounds' family, it took 20 years for them to see justice. Other families have waited longer. There is one that has been waiting 31 years.

"It is our fervent hope that the family of Mrs. Bounds may now begin the process of healing," Epps said.

Hood said that the system must work for everyone, including those sentenced to die.

"But it especially must work for the victims' families and the law abiding citizens and taxpayers of the state of Mississippi," said Hood, who knows Bounds' family and was one of the witnesses at the Berry execution.

Jim Craig, a Jackson attorney who has many years experience in handling death penalty appeals for inmates, said concern about the expense is one thing. He said the figures quoted by Epps show the death penalty costs more than sentencing offenders to life in prison without parole.

"But it is stunning that the attorney general wants executions to move faster," Craig said. "Just this year, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks - 2 men convicted of capital murder - were released from prison because they were proved to be innocent. Brewer was on death row for 12 years.

"If executions moved faster, innocent men like Brewer would be killed," Craig said. "Is that what our public officials want?"

Hood's list of possible executions has three names - Dale Leo Bishop, Paul Everett Woodward and Gerald James Holland, who is the oldest death row inmate at 70 years of age.

Hood said an execution date for Bishop could be set as early as August. Bishop has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hood said Woodward and Holland should follow soon after.

Those 3 inmates, along with Alan Dale Walker, have a challenge to the state's method of lethal injection pending in federal court in northern Mississippi.

"Of the 6 death row inmates executed since 1989, 3 have come in just the past 4 years," Hood said. "Due process is paramount, but for every death row inmate who takes advantage of our system to delay his punishment, there's a family member of a victim like Mary Bounds who has spent all those years waiting for justice to be served."

Mary Bounds' daughter, Jena Watson, who watched the execution, said Berry's action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend, and that pain will never go away.

"We feel that we have received justice," she said Wednesday after the execution. "There's never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues."

(source: Fort Mill Times)


Background on 3 Miss. inmates possibly next up for execution

Attorney General Jim Hood says 3 death row inmates are possibly in line for the next executions. They are:

Paul Everett Woodward, sentenced from Perry County for the July 23, 1986, murder, kidnapping, robbery and rape of volunteer Youth Court worker Rhonda Crane.

Gerald James Holland, sentenced from Adams County for the 1987 beating, suffocation and stabbing death of 15-year-old Krystal D. King.

Dale Leo Bishop, sentenced from Lee County for his role in beating to death 19-year-old Marcus Gentry of Fulton with a hammer after an argument.

(source: Associated Press)


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - If condemned inmate Dale Leo Bishop is executed as planned this month, it will be the swiftest a death penalty has been carried out in Mississippi since the days of the gas chamber.

Bishop was sentenced to death in 2000 for the fatal beating of a 19-year-old man. He is scheduled for execution on July 23.

The last five men executed in Mississippi spent an average of about 19 years appealing their cases, much longer than the eight years since Bishop's conviction.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says several changes in state and federal regulations in recent years were aimed at expediting inmate appeals.

Death penalty opponents say a lengthy appeal allows time for new evidence to emerge and ensures that innocent people are not put to death. Others say years of legal wrangling torments victims' families and costs taxpayers millions.

There are various reasons that death row appeals can last for decades. One prisoner has been on death row in Mississippi since 1977. If a sentence or conviction is overturned and then later reinstated, the appeals process starts over.



Seems that Mississippi is an examplae for toher states...
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

Granny B

"But it is stunning that the attorney general wants executions to move faster," Craig said. "Just this year, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks - 2 men convicted of capital murder - were released from prison because they were proved to be innocent. Brewer was on death row for 12 years.

"If executions moved faster, innocent men like Brewer would be killed," Craig said. "Is that what our public officials want?"
Actually, if they were innocent, they would get out of prison faster if the appeals process is sped up. It's all stall and delay tactics during appeals anyway.

If there was something to actually look at that would exonerate the prisoners, it would just occur sooner rather than later.  All of the materials and evidence they are convicted with is there for the appeals lawyers to look at used during the trial and afterward.  Sometimes if they wait too long it gets stored and lost, so some of those criminals get out for that technicality. 

Do it sooner, get the appeals over with and "git er done!"
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


Actually, if they were innocent, they would get out of prison faster if the appeals process is sped up. It's all stall and delay tactics during appeals anyway.

Great point GoB!  :-*


I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


From Halperin.


Man found guilty of killing death row inmate Earnest Lee Hargon

In less than 45 minutes, a jury in Sunflower County returned a guilty verdict against Jessie Wilson, the man charged with killing Earnest Lee Hargon.

Wilson stabbed Hargon 37 times in August 2007.

Both men were in Parchman prison at the time.

Hargon was on death row for murdering his cousin, his cousin's wife, and their 4-year-old son.

Now, Hargon's killer, who was already serving time for multiple crimes, has received a sentence of life in prison.

(source: WLBT News)


Miss. high court to review death penalty case

The Mississippi Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for June 16 in William Wilson's appeal of his capital murder conviction for the 2005 slaying of a 2-year-old girl.

The case is among dozens the court will consider during the May-June term.

Wilson, of Mooreville, was sentenced to death in 2007 in Lee County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to capital murder and felony child abuse in the death of Mallory Conlee. Wilson was sentenced to death, as well as 20 years in prison on the child abuse charge.

In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed along with the commission of another crime - in this case child abuse.

Death sentences are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.

At the time of the girl's death, authorities said they had received a report that a motorcycle had fallen on the head area of the child. An autopsy report listed bruises all over the child's body and third-degree burns to her feet.

Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine had said the bruises were in several stages of healing, indicating that they had occurred over a time.

I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.



Lawsuit: Miss. prisoners' appeals are inadequate

Associated Press - May 6, 2010 2:54 PM ET

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An attorney for 16 Mississippi death row inmates has filed a lawsuit claiming a state office failed in its duty to provide adequate legal representation for prisoners' post-conviction appeals.

The lawsuit against the state was filed Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court by Jackson attorney Jim Craig, who has handled dozens of death row appeals.

The lawsuit gives only one side of the legal argument. In it, Craig contends the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel is inadequately staffed and its attorneys are not versed in handling death row appeals.

A spokeswoman says Attorney General Jim Hood was in a meeting Thursday and was not immediately available for comment.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


heidi salazar

and another article...

Death Row Prisoners Sue State

by Ward Schaefer
May 19, 2010

Read the complaint and supporting materials

Courtesy Mississippi Department of Corrections
Steve Knox is one of 16 death-row prisoners suing the state over its 
post-conviction defense system.

Steve Knox has been on Mississippi's death row for murder since 1999. In a lawsuit filed May 6, Jackson attorney Jim Craig says that the state's legal system has repeatedly failed Knox and 15 other death-row inmates. The problems with Knox's representation began with a woefully underprepared lawyer in his original trial and continued when a state-funded agency failed to thoroughly investigate the original trial for later, post-conviction petitions, Craig alleges.

Charles Press, now a senior attorney with the California Innocence Project, tried to help Knox's trial attorney. Along with Debra Sabah, now his wife, Press provided pro bono assistance on death penalty cases in Mississippi from 1998 to 2001. The two met with Knox's attorney the weekend before his trial and drafted several pre-trial motions for the attorney to use, including motions for DNA evidence and a psychiatric evaluation. The trial attorney, who had not prepared for the trial before meeting Press and Sabah, filed only one of the motions, however.

"That was a startling lack of preparation," Press said. "Even by Mississippi standards, I hadn't seen someone going to trial in a death penalty case who did that little. It was doomed."

Evidence of Knox's ill-prepared trial lawyer may have helped Knox obtain a lighter sentence, but the state-appointed lawyers who represent death-row prisoners after conviction never raised the evidence in their 2003 petition on his behalf. They also did not seek new DNA testing, which, in the case of Knox's federal lawyers, has raised doubts about whether Knox's blood matches that found on the victim. In 2005, the state Supreme Court denied Knox's petition and reaffirmed his death sentence.

Knox is one of 16 death-row prisoners suing Mississippi for failure to adequately staff and fund the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, which represents death-sentenced prisoners after they have exhausted the state appeals process. The lawsuit, filed May 6 in Hinds County Chancery Court, alleges that the Mississippi Supreme Court, which appoints the office's executive director, prevented successive directors from hiring private attorneys to help shoulder a rapidly growing caseload. In the suit, Craig alleges that the state Legislature compounded the office's staffing shortage by repeatedly slashing its budget.

State law requires prisoners sentenced to death to raise any complaints of government misconduct, ineffective representation or jury issues their in post-conviction petitions. Developing a petition for post-conviction relief takes an enormous amount of time, however: attorneys must trawl through trial and appeals records, as well as re-interview witnesses.

The American Bar Association provides a guideline for workload on capital post-conviction cases of 800 to 1200 hours per case. Work on post-conviction cases often extends well beyond the ABA guideline, Press said.
"By the time someone gets a case in post-conviction, it can be seven, eight years after trial," Press said. "If it wasn't tried very well, it's just that much harder to try to find the evidence that you need to present. ... You have to present everything as sworn testimony through affidavits. It's a really time-consuming process.

Created in
2000, the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel started with a staff of three attorneys and one investigator. The state Supreme Court began assigning cases to the office almost immediately, handing the office 16 cases in an eight-week span from November 2009 to January 2001. Faced with a daunting workload, then-director C. Jackson Williams tried to hire private attorneys to help prepare petitions in the cases, which were due in 180 days. Chief Justice Edwin Pittman blocked Williams' efforts, though, and in a December 2001 confidential order charged him with "improper" actions for attempting to hire the outside attorneys, Craig says in the lawsuit. Williams resigned Dec. 31, 2001.

"It started off somewhat slow, and then it became very clear that the court was just going to pile every case that they had on them," Press said. "When Jack Williams was head, it just collapsed under the weight of the cases, and he resigned, which I think was actually the ethical thing to do given what his caseload was."

After Williams' departure, the office declined further. Two staff attorneys resigned, leaving new director Bob Ryan as the office's only attorney for several months. At the same time, state support for the office decreased. In 2001, the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel received $987,285 in state appropriations. The next year, its budgets dropped 27 percent, to $719,289. In 2003, the Legislature cut the office's funding by another 10 percent, 
to $647,702.


heidi salazar

3 more may face death this year
State's next execution may come as soon as July

After two executions last week, 2010 could go down as the busiest year for the Mississippi death penalty since 1961 - evidence a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling is having impact on Mississippi's death row.

Three more death row inmates could run out of appeals this year, and the next execution could be as soon as July.

State Attorney General Jim Hood said it plainly Friday in the wake of back-to-back executions of Paul Everette Woodward, 62, on Wednesday and Gerald James Holland, 72, on Thursday.

"We can expect to see more executions," Hood said.

He cited changes made during the administration of President Clinton that allowed appeals to move faster through the court system. But it was the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in a Kentucky case, Baze v. Rees, upholding lethal injection procedures that paved the way for increased execution in several states.

Mississippi has not executed more than two in any year since 1961, when five inmates were put to death.

Death row inmate Joseph Burns' petition for appeal is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hood expects the court to decide whether to hear Burns' appeal June 30.

If the court declines, the state will immediately ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to set an execution date.

"We expect that to be the latter part of July," Hood said.

Burns, 42, was sentenced in Lee County in September 1996 for the November 1994 robbery and murder of motel clerk Mike McBride. Burns spent the stolen cash in a casino.

Two other death row inmates have rehearing petitions before the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. That means the court decided against hearing their initial appeals. If that court doesn't change its earlier ruling, the inmates' only hopes lie with the U.S. Supreme Court.

One is Frederick Bell, convicted of the 1991 murder of a Grenada County grocery store clerk.

Bell, 38, was sentenced to death on Jan. 27, 1993.

Hood, who was not in his office when reached Friday, did not have the name of the fifth inmate close to running out of appeals.

But he is prepared for all to be executed in the coming months.

"We believe that will occur in the latter part of summer or early fall," Hood said.

Each execution costs the state roughly $11,000, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said.

"We are prepared to carry out the executions," said Epps, who has witnessed more than a dozen executions.

Marcie King Walker approves of an increased use of the death penalty. Walker watched Holland's execution Thursday. She was 11 years old when Holland murdered her sister, Krystal Dee King, in 1986.

"I wish we had a fast lane for them," Walker said. "I hope we become like Texas."

Texas has executed more than 450 convicted murderers in the last 25 years.




Delay the big issue in execution cases

By Charlie Mitchell

Vicksburg Post
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 1:03 PM CDT

JACKSON -- Who knows? Gerald James Holland and Paul Everette Woodward might have lived longer because they were sentenced to death.

After all, outside the environs of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, there are car wrecks, house fires, shootouts and more exposure to the ravages of drugs and alcohol. Inside, where Holland and Woodward were both sent for raping and murdering young women 24 years ago, is comparatively safe. Fate knows whether their lives were extended or shortened by their crimes. We never will.

We can know this: Before being put to death by the state of Mississippi last week, Woodward had reached the age of 62. That's more than 2-1/2 times the lifespan of Rhonda Crane, who was 24 when she was kidnapped, abused and shot in the head in Perry County. And before being put to death last week, Holland had reached the age of 72. That's almost five times the lifespan of Krystal King, who was sodomized and strangled in Biloxi on her 15th birthday.

Holland, by the way, was senior among Mississippi's Death Row inmates but was not the oldest person executed in this state. John Nixon got that distinction five years ago when, at 77, he was administered a lethal injection for crimes committed 20 years earlier.

People support or oppose the death penalty for myriad reasons.

Supporters say it is a deterrent, will reduce crime, that the severity of a punishment should match the severity of a crime. They say rehabilitation fails. Killers, especially killers who are a continuing threat to the public, deserve what they get. And they claim backing by the Bible.

Opponents say it is not a deterrent, that rehabilitation can work, that the risk of executing innocent people is too high and that racial prejudice cannot be eliminated from trials and sentences. Some claim life in prison is actually more severe -- forcing killers to remember their acts daily. And, as with supporters, they point to Scripture.

Cost is an issue raised by both sides. Supporters point to the expense of housing, guarding and feeding a person serving life without parole. Opponents point to the costs of the many appeals and processes that precede executions.

Some arguments can be proved one way or another. For instance, it is true that no person, after execution, has been a repeat offender. Most people imprisoned and released after heinous crimes don't repeat their crimes, but some strike again.

Race is a factor that can be examined only in statistical terms.

From 1817 until 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared executions unconstitutional, Mississippi executed 351 people, a rate of just over 2 per year. A racial breakdown was not available, but it's probably safe to say black people were disproportionately represented.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court defined what it would take to make a death sentence constitutional -- and Mississippi passed such a law in 1977 -- there have been an even dozen executions, a rate of about one every three years. All have been men; three black and nine white.

As for the whole death row population, there are 55 men and three women; 26 white, 31 black and one Asian.

Regarding innocence, three men sent to death row in Mississippi in the past 33 years have been released due to wrongful convictions.

For Woodward and Holland, there was no question of guilt. Both did the crimes for which they were administered lethal injections.

But what is increasingly an issue -- perhaps even a constitutional question -- is how long is too long? Will the day come when courts will rule that death sentences are automatically converted to life without parole if the state doesn't carry out a sentence within a fixed amount of time? Some will say the constant delays are a strategy by death-penalty opponents. Perhaps that's accurate. The longer they can keep their clients alive, the better the chances states or the Supreme Court will outlaw executions. When the court did that in 1972, hundreds of death sentences were commuted by states.

In Mississippi today, based on the two executions carried out last week, the average length of time between crime and the ultimate punishment increased to 15 years.

And even though he was the oldest person on Death Row at Parchman, Gerald James Holland had not been there the longest. That distinction belongs to Richard G. Jordan. He turns 64 on Thursday and has spent 34 years -- more than half his life -- awaiting execution.




Missississippi picks up pace on executions
Time running out for some on death row

* By Jack Elliott Jr., Associated Press

* Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

News analysis

JACKSON -- The three longest-serving inmates on Mississippi's death row have been there a combined 88 years. Logic would suggest they'd be next in line for execution, but they're probably not.

Richard Jordan (33 years), William Wiley (28 years) and James Billiot (27 years) have appeals pending in the federal courts, and their cases could be tied up another year or two.

The recent executions of Paul Everette Woodward and Gerald James Holland have prompted Atty. Gen. Jim Hood and Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps to say as many as three more death sentences could be carried out this year.

Epps said his staff at the Parchman penitentiary can handle the job, particularly with the first back-to-back executions over two days in nearly 50 years.

"We're making sure we have everything ready, so when the order comes ... we'll be able to carry out the law," Epps said.

Epps said he believes time is running out for many on death row.

Hood anticipates the executions of Joseph Burns and Frederick Bell this year.

The identity of the third inmate possibly to be executed is unclear. Hood's office said there are 11 appeals pending in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

"We just don't know when or which case will be decided next," said Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for Hood's office.

Burns has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Hood expects justices to reject it by June 30. Then, Hood said, an execution could be set for late July or early August.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit denied Bell a new trial last summer. Bell has requested a hearing before the full 5th Circuit; that motion is pending.

"Our presumption is if the 5th Circuit denies something soon, we can get to the Supreme Court. While it's often hard to predict how long they will take ... if it is on an average pace we should know something by the fall on Bell," Hood said.

Burns, now 42, was sentenced to death in Lee County in 1996. He was convicted in the 1994 robbery and murder of a motel clerk.

Bell, now 38, was convicted of the 1991 murder of a grocery store clerk. He was sentenced to death in Grenada County in 1993.

"They've run every rabbit trail they can," Hood said of Burns and Bell.

Mississippi has not executed more than two inmates in any year since 1961, when five were put to death, according to records at the Department of Corrections.

In Texas, 450 convicted murderers have been executed in the last 25 years. Mississippi has executed 43 since March 1955, including Holland and Woodward.

Marcie Walker of Wiggins -- sister of 15-year-old Krystal King of Gulfport, who was killed by Holland -- witnessed Holland's execution. She told reporters the state shouldn't let people sit on death row for years: "Mississippi should be like Texas and put in an express lane."

In 1997, Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice told a newly formed criminal justice study group that the state lets prisoners linger on death row too long.

"Texas executed two in one day again the other day. Arkansas has done the same thing," Fordice said. "Both of those states are continually working down their inventory on death row, and ours continues to grow."


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