Mississippi Death Penalty News

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turboprinz

Death row inmate gets competency hearing
Published: February 15, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a competency hearing for death row inmate Terry Pitchford.

Pitchford had asked the Supreme Court for permission to pursue the competency issue in Grenada County Circuit Court. The court in a 5-2 order Thursday approved the request.

Pitchford, now 25, was 18 when he was charged with killing Grenada County store owner Ruben Britt. He was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors say Britt was shot multiple times inside Crossroads Grocery in 2004. Prosecutors say one of the murder weapons was Britt's own gun, which he kept at the store for protection. They say Britt's gun was found in Pitchford's car when he was arrested.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Pitchford's conviction in 2010.

http://www2.whlt.com/news/2013/feb/15/death-row-inmate-gets-competency-hearing-ar-5598326/
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Grinning Grim Reaper

Manning denied appeal by US Supreme Court


Updated 11:47 am, Monday, March 25, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Mississippi death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning.

Manning asked U.S. Supreme Court in December to listen to his arguments for a new trial. The court declined Monday without comment.

Attorney General Jim Hood later Monday asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to set an execution date for Manning. In his motion, Hood asked the court to set the date of execution for April 24.

Hood moves almost as fast as OK AG Scott Pruitt!  8)

"It is the state's position that the denial of the petition ... brings to a conclusion the challenges by Manning in state and federal courts to his sentence of death," Hood said in the motion.

The 5th Circuit said under state law, Manning had until April 5, 2000, to file a post-conviction petition. Court records show Manning did not file anything with the Mississippi Supreme Court until Oct. 8, 2001.

Manning, now 44, received two death sentences for the 1992 slayings of two Mississippi State University students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.

On Dec. 11, 1992, the bodies of Miller and Steckler were discovered in rural Oktibbeha County. Both students had been shot to death, and Miller's car was missing. The vehicle was found the next morning.

Prosecutors said Manning was arrested after he attempted to sell certain items belonging to the victims.

Manning has another appeal pending in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court in a separate death penalty case.

Last month, the Mississippi Supreme Court asked an Oktibbeha County judge to explain why no ruling has been issued on a post-conviction petition filed by Manning in a case involving the deaths of two women.

Manning was convicted in 1996 for the killings of Emmoline Jimmerson, 90, and Alberta Jordan, about 60, in Starkville. The women were beaten and their throats slashed during a robbery attempt in 1993. The Supreme Court upheld his two death sentences in 2000.

In 2004, the Mississippi court said Manning could pursue a PCR on whether prosecutors withheld certain evidence, whether prosecutors presented false evidence and whether Manning was denied effective assistance of counsel both at trial and on appeal.

The Oktibbeha court held a hearing in January of 2011.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Manning-denied-appeal-by-US-Supreme-Court-4382008.php#ixzz2OaEFp5qY
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Grinning Grim Reaper

Execution Date Requested for Willie Jerome Manning


Posted: Mar 26, 2013 9:16 AM CDT Updated: Mar 26, 2013 9:16 AM CDT

Jackson - An execution date is being requested in the Willie Jerome Manning death row case, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Manning is accused of murdering two Mississippi State University students, Tiffany Miller and Jon Steckler, during the early morning hours of December 11, 1992.  Tiffany had been shot twice in the face at close range.  Jon was shot once in the back of the head and had extensive abrasions consistent with being run over.  A jury found Manning guilty of both murders. 

"The victims' families have waited two decades for justice in this case," said Attorney General Hood. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time."   

So Who's on MS Death Row?

J.D. Burns' execution reduced to nine the number of Mississippi's Death Row inmates convicted of crimes in Northeast Mississippi.

Four are black, five white.

Two are women, two-thirds of the condemned females in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Three come from Lee County and three from Oktibbeha County. The others hail from Tishomingo, Lafayette and Union counties.

Their appeals are classified with "DP" on them. Death Penalty.

When, and if, they will die is another story, often a long story.

Burns was on Death Row for 16 years after his Lee County conviction in 1996 for the robbery-stabbing death of Tupelo motel manager Mike McBride.

Now that Burns is gone, the region's longest-serving Death Row inmate is Willie Jerome Manning, 42, at 15 years.

He was convicted in the 1992 murders of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller and the 1993 murders of Emmoline Jimmerson and Alberta Jordan, who were beaten and killed during a robbery of their Brooksville Gardens apartment.

There is no typical length of time prisoners linger in the system awaiting their executions, says Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Attorney General's Office.

While some appeals are not extensive, others may continue across decades from motions for new trials, appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court and petitions up through the federal ranks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to Manning, here are the region's other Death Row inmates:

- Charles Ray Crawford, 44. Convicted in 1994 of murder in Lafayette County. He also had convictions on aggravated assault in Lafayette County and rape in Chickasaw County from 1993. This case was moved from Tippah County, where Crawford kidnapped college student Kristy Ray, raped her, handcuffed her to a pine tree and stabbed her to death. His case is under review in federal district court.

- Marlon Howell, 30. Convicted in 2001 of the capital murder of a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal paper carrier, David Pernell, in Union County. Also a 2000 conviction for possession of controlled substances in Union County. His case awaits a hearing date on a post-conviction review in state court.

- Thomas E. Loden, 45. Convicted in 2001 of capital murder, rape and sexual battery of 16-year-old Leese Marie Gray in Itawamba County. His case awaits a decision on whether he will get a rehearing after his post-conviction review was denied. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals also sent his conviction back to district court to consider certain issues.

- Michelle Byrom, 53. Convicted in 2002 for the capital murder of her husband of 20 years and recruiting her son in the plot. Her case is under review in federal district court.

- Derrick Deo Walker, 29. Convicted in 2003 of capital murder of personnel director Charles Richardson and a residence arson in Lee County. His appeal is pending after he was found incompetent to proceed with post-conviction review.

- Kristi Leigh Fulgham, 33. Convicted in 2006 for capital murder in the shooting death of her husband, Joey, in Oktibbeha County. Also has convictions on attempted jail escape and smuggling a cell phone into the jail. Her direct appeal is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

- William Matthew Wilson, 29. Convicted in 2007 of the capital murder and child abuse of his girlfriend's daughter, 2-year-old Mallow Conlee. His appeal for post-conviction review is pending in state court.

- Bobby L. Batiste, 30. Convicted in 2010 for the capital murder of his Mississippi State University roommate, Andreas Galanis, in Oktibbeha County. His direct appeal is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Schaeffer at the attorney's general's office says the next state execution will be Frederick Bell, 38, convicted in a 1993 Grenada County murder. No date has been set.

"We have other cases pending in the 5th Circuit," she said, referring to the next appeals court above the Mississippi Supreme Court. "But none has been decided as of this date.

"There is no way to even guess which of the pending cases may be decided next."

www.djournal.com
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

turboprinz

Judge Agrees King Mentally Disabled
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 10:25 a.m. CDT



ABERDEEN, Miss. (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled a Mississippi inmate is mentally disabled and is not to be executed.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock on Tuesday threw out Mack Arthur King's death sentence and gave the state 60 days to resentence him.

King, now 53, was sentenced to die by a Lowndes County jury in the death of 84-year-old Lela Patterson in 1980. Patterson was beaten, strangled and drowned at her home during a burglary. Her body was found in a bathtub. When he was arrested, King had some of her belongings, according to court records.

King's conviction and sentence were overturned on two previous state appeals. Then he was tried and convicted a third time in 2003 and sentenced to death. Initially, he was evaluated by a doctor as part of his defense.

His conviction was appealed to federal court in 2010 on numerous issues, including his mental state.

Mississippi prosecutors this past week agreed with a psychological evaluation stating King is mentally disabled.

Aycock said in her ruling that the government's concession that King is mentally disabled and King's own expert testimony were evidence enough to rule for King.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally disabled amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and is unconstitutional.

http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2013/mar/27/judge-agrees-king-mentally-disabled/
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Grinning Grim Reaper

And in the "No Shit Sherlock" category...


Willie Jerome Manning opposes setting of execution date
;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

by Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press Associated Press

JACKSON -- Willie Jerome Manning has told the Mississippi Supreme Court that he has more arguments to make so now is not the time to be setting an execution date sought by the attorney general's office.

Manning was recently denied an appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court in the deaths of two college students. The attorney general's office asked the Mississippi court to set the date of execution for April 24.

In a brief filed Monday, Manning's attorney said there are issues pending before the Mississippi court in which Manning seeks a new trial; among them are arguments that a jailhouse informant had recanted his testimony, that Manning's trial attorney was ineffective and that blacks were improperly kept off his trial jury.

Manning also said there was a chance Gov. Phil Bryant would grant him clemency.

The attorney general's office has not yet filed a response.

Manning, now 44, received two death sentences for the 1992 slayings of two Mississippi State University students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.

On Dec. 11, 1992, the bodies of Miller and Steckler were discovered in rural Oktibbeha County. Both students had been shot to death, and Miller's car was missing. The vehicle was found the next morning.

Prosecutors said Manning was arrested after he attempted to sell certain items belonging to the victims.

Manning contends three prosecution witnesses lied in their testimony because "they were given reward money and-or because their own criminal charges were dismissed or drastically reduced."

Manning also points to second capital murder case where he has motions pending.

In February, the Mississippi Supreme Court asked an Oktibbeha County judge to explain why no ruling has been issue on a post-conviction petition filed by Manning in a case involving the deaths of two women. An Oktibbeha County judge has since told the court he will have a ruling by June 28.

Manning was convicted in 1996 for the killings of Emmoline Jimmerson, 90, and Alberta Jordan, about 60, in Starkville. The women were beaten and their throats slashed during a robbery attempt in 1993 at the Brookville Gardens apartments. The Supreme Court upheld his two death sentences in 2000.

Manning's attorney said Monday that the resetting of an execution date would thwart the Supreme Court's desire to have that case brought to a close.

Manning said the key issue to be addressed in the 1993 case is the issue that an eye witness has recanted.

Kevin Lucious, according to court records, testified that he saw Manning force his way into the women's apartment. Lucious said he was looking out the window of his apartment at the time.

Then at a hearing in Oktibbeha County in January of 2011, Lucious recanted that testimony, saying he didn't live in the apartment at the time of the women's death.

Manning, in his brief to the Supreme Court, said Lucious' testimony was corroborated by police department records not given to Manning's trial attorney. He said prosecutors also did not disclose the police records.

"A finding by the circuit court that Manning's conviction in the Brooksville Gardens case was procured on the basis of false testimony would also be relevant to the claims in this case (the college students), because it would show a pattern of reliance on testimony procured unfairly," Manning's attorney wrote.

www.djjournal.com
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

turboprinz

DNA test granted for death row inmate
Convict seeking new trial in students' slayings
Jul. 25, 2013 10:25 PM

The Mississippi Supreme Court has granted death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning's request to seek approval for DNA and fingerprint testing as Manning pursues a new trial in the slayings of two Mississippi State University students.

The order, dated Tuesday, reversed an earlier decision in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Manning's request for DNA testing.

Manning argues technological strides in the past two decades in DNA testing could lead to proof that he is innocent of killing two Mississippi State University students in 1992.

The Supreme Court had stopped Manning's execution on May 7 so it could further review Manning's arguments.

Justices also made a 5-4 ruling in the same order to deny Manning's request for a hearings on the reliability of expert testimony regarding both ballistics and hair analysis.

The request for the hearings was based partly on letters the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI sent to the Supreme Court days prior to his execution date that cited erroneous hair and ballistics testimony in Manning's case. Although the court denied hearing on issues mentioned in the letters, it was the last-minute letters, Mississippi Innocence Project Director Tucker Carrington said, which likely had much to do with the decision to stay Manning's execution.

Manning's attorney, Rob Mink, said he speculated the rulings may have been the result of a compromise among the justices.

The fact that the letters from the Justice Department and FBI may have played a role in the Supreme Court's decision to open a window of opportunity for Manning's attorneys could have implications for as many as 26 other death penalty convictions also under review for forensic testimony errors. The Washington Post's Spencer Hsu reported that 27 death penalty cases included in a massive unprecedented review of thousands of old federal cases could become a factor in the debate over the death penalty.

The Supreme Court also voted unanimously to deny Manning's motion to throw out his conviction.

The bodies of couple Jon Steckler, 19, of Natchez, and Tiffany Miller, 22, of Madison, were found in rural Oktibbeha County. Manning was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death.

Manning has 60 days to ask Judge Lee J. Howard to grant DNA and fingerprint testing in Oktibbeha County circuit court.

"We are glad that we've got some of this work we can do," Mink said of moving forward with the case. "There's still a possibility of identifying the real killer."

Manning has maintained his innocence.

Mink said he was disappointed the court denied the opportunity for Manning's team to explore the issues brought up by the Justice Department and FBI regarding hair and ballistics testimony.

Carrington, whose organization aided in Manning's appeals, said he was relieved the Mississippi Supreme Court didn't make a ruling that would set a precedent to deny post conviction DNA testing for death row inmates.

"I feel like Mississippi stepped back from the precipice, regardless of the results ... by allowing the testing and avoiding becoming one of a few if not the first state ever to ignore ... the probative value of post conviction DNA evidence."

But the family of one of Manning's alleged victims, Tiffany Miller, said they suspect the testing will reveal little new information.

"I think it's a waste of time, personally," Miller's mother, Pam Cole of Madison, said.

Cole said Thursday it has been a difficult couple of months waiting for the Supreme Court to rule since Manning's execution was halted hours before it was scheduled to take place.

"I expect them to find nothing," she said of the testing. "I hope they'll hurry up and get satisfied."

If by chance the testing brings Manning's guilt into question, Miller's half sister, Ann-Marie Templeton, said it will be "heartbreaking," but her family won't stop fighting for justice.

"All I can say is bring it on," Templeton said.

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130726/NEWS01/307260027/DNA-test-granted-death-row-inmate
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Death row inmate seeks new arguments before court
December 27, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Death row inmate Charles Ray Crawford is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to let him file a petition that he believes will win him a new trial.

Crawford argues in a new motion that his previous attorneys did a poor job of handling his first petition for post-conviction relief.

Crawford argues that if the court allows him to try again, he'll explain his arguments better. In a post-conviction petition, inmates argues they have found new evidence -- or a possible constitutional issue -- that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

Crawford is now 43 and was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder and rape of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

Crawford also has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

http://www.chron.com/news/article/Death-row-inmate-seeks-new-arguments-before-court-5095653.php
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

AG seeks execution date in pawn shop slaying
January 12, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. -- The attorney general's office has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to set an execution date for death row inmate Erik Wayne Hollie.

Hollie was sentenced to death by a Copiah County jury after pleading guilty to capital murder in 2010 in the fatal shooting of Wesson Pawn Shop owner Denmon Ward. Authorities said the 54-year-old Ward was shot to death during a robbery at his shop on Sept. 8, 2009.

The attorney general's argues in its Jan. 2 motion that time has run out for Hollie, now 29, to file appeals in his case.

On Jan. 6, the Office of the State Capital Defense Counsel, now representing Hollie, asked the Supreme Court to deny the attorney general's petition. Hollie's lawyers said state law requires an automatic review of all death sentence cases by the Supreme Court and this hasn't been done.

Alison Steiner, with the capital defense officer, said the circuit clerk in Copiah County failed to send the case record and transcript to the Supreme Court as required by state law.

Steiner said the Supreme Court should get the transcripts and enter a scheduling order for briefing and possible oral arguments in Hollie's case.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on the motions.

http://www.sunherald.com/2014/01/12/5252013/ag-seeks-execution-date-in-pawn.html
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Miss. high court to review pawn shop slaying case
January 31, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied a request from the attorney general's office to set an execution date for death row inmate Erik Wayne Hollie.

Instead, the justices directed the Copiah County Circuit Court to deliver to them the complete record in the case so the court can undertake a thorough review of the case.

Hollie was sentenced to death by a Copiah County jury after pleading guilty to capital murder in 2010 in the fatal shooting of Wesson Pawn Shop owner Denmon Ward during a robbery in 2009.

The attorney general's argues in its Jan. 2 motion that time has run out for Hollie, now 29, to file appeals.

Hollie's lawyers argued state law requires an automatic review of death penalty cases.

http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Miss-high-court-to-review-pawn-shop-slaying-case-5191984.php
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Man loses appeal of conviction, death sentence
February 6, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the capital murder and death sentence given Jason Lee Keller for the 2007 fatal shooting and robbery of a Harrison County convenience store owner.

Keller, now 33, was sentenced to die in 2009 for the death of 41-year-old Hat Nguyen. Prosecutors say the single mother of four was killed at the convenience store she owned.

On appeal, Keller argued statements he gave police while being treated in the hospital for a gunshot wound were inadmissible. Two were thrown out at his trial; the third was allowed as evidence.

In a 7-2 decision Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed the third statement was voluntarily given to authorities.

Two dissenting justices say the third statement should have been found inadmissible and Keller given a new trial.

http://www.sunherald.com/2014/02/06/5317271/man-loses-appeal-of-conviction.html
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

High court won't set execution date for inmate
Posted: Apr 01, 2014 12:25 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied a motion from prosecutors to set an execution date for death row inmates Charles Ray Crawford.

The attorney general's office had asked that Crawford's execution be carried out March 28. That day came and went without a Supreme Court decision.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

The high court on Monday declined to set an execution date while Crawford is appealing a rape and aggravated assault conviction and a 66-year sentence in another case.

Prosecutors used the earlier rape conviction as an aggravated factor against Crawford when they sought the death penalty during the sentencing phase of the Ray case.

http://www.wjtv.com/story/25122458/high-court-wont-set-execution-date-for-inmate
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Miss. death row inmate challenges rape conviction
April 16, 2014

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out a timetable for attorneys for a death row inmate to file briefs by late May supporting his appeal of a 1994 rape conviction.

In refusing to set an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford in March, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the appeal of prior rape conviction first.

That conviction was cited as an aggravating factor by prosecutors in justifying the death sentence Crawford received in 1994 for the slaying of a junior college student.

The Supreme Court filed an order Monday setting out the briefing scheduled. Prosecutors will have 30 days after Crawford's lawyers file his arguments to file a response.

If the Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Attorney General Jim Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date.

Crawford's attorneys have argued in court documents that if the rape conviction is reversed, the jury would have considered "an invalid aggravator in imposing the death sentence." They argued reversal would mean Crawford would have the right to have his death sentence thrown out and a new sentencing hearing scheduled in Tippah County.

Prosecutors have said a reversal of the earlier rape conviction would be a harmless error because of the abundance of evidence supporting the death penalty in the capital murder case. They said Crawford was also convicted of aggravated assault in the early trial, another aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty.

Few details of the prior rape and aggravated assault convictions are discussed in the earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. Four days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges in the rape and aggravated assault case and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2014/04/16/death-row-challenger/7802733/
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Death row inmate denied post-conviction appeal
April 25, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied the post-conviction arguments of death row inmate Eric Moffett.

Moffett's capital murder conviction and death sentence were upheld in 2010 by the Supreme Court. He was convicted in 2006 in Hinds County in the death of 5-year-old Felicia Griffin. The child was his girlfriend's daughter.

In his post-conviction petition, Moffett argued he deserved a new trial because of his lawyers' poor performance during his trial and his sentencing.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday the given the overwhelming evidence of Moffett's guilt, there has been no miscarriage of justice and Moffett failed to show how his lawyers did a poor job.

The court also said Moffett was using the issue of ineffective counsel to reargue evidence used in the sentencing phase of his trial.

http://www.sunherald.com/2014/04/25/5521904/death-row-inmate-denied-post-conviction.html?sp=/99/184/218/
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

turboprinz

Galloway seeks federal review of death sentence
April 22, 2014

   JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi death row inmate Leslie "Bo" Galloway III, convicted of raping and killing a Harrison Central High senior in 2008, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the teenager and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15. Hunters found her body.

In 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Galloway's 2010 conviction and death sentence in the slaying of Shakeylia Anderson of Gulfport.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the 17-year-old Anderson and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15.

Prosecutors say Anderson was last seen getting into Galloway's car on Dec. 5, 2008. Hunters found her body the next day.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/22/galloway-seeks-federal-review-of-death-sentence/
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turboprinz

Miss. court throws out death sentence for Gillett
June 12, 2014

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a Hattiesburg couple and bringing their bodies to Kansas in a freezer.

Roger Lee Gillett was convicted in 2007 in Forrest County on two counts of capital murder. While in custody in Kansas, he attempted to escape. That crime was one of the aggravating factors prosecutors presented to jurors in arguing for the death penalty.

The Supreme Court, in its 6-3 decision, said not every escape is considered a crime of violence under Kansas law. Therefore, wrote Justice Ann Lamar, the Kansas crime cannot be used to support a death sentence in Mississippi.

Lamar said escape should not have been presented to Gillett's jury.

The court did not overturn Gillett's convictions.

Thursday's decision was a reversal of the same court's finding in 2010 that there was other evidence besides the escape to justify a death sentence. Three dissenting justices said the court should uphold that decision.

In Mississippi, the death penalty can be imposed by a jury only after it finds certain aggravating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances include particularly heinous acts of violence, violent criminal histories or other circumstances determined by judges and juries.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that state appellate courts can uphold death sentences for defendants convicted of murder, even if their sentencing juries wrongly considered some adverse evidence. The Mississippi attorney general's office used the same argument in trying to uphold Gillett's death sentence. But in 2006, the high court said a death sentence must be set aside if a jury considered inadmissible evidence that otherwise would not have been before it.

Gillett seized on those decisions in arguing in his post-conviction petition that his death sentences should be thrown out.

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2014/06/12/supreme-court-gillett-resentencing/10383163/
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