Mississippi Condemned inmate asks judge to stop Feb. 8 execution

By Jack Elliott Jr.

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Condemned inmate Edwin Hart Turner has asked a federal judge in Mississippi to halt his execution until he can get a mental examination.

Turner is scheduled to be executed Feb. 8 at the state penitentiary in Parchman.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will conduct a hearing Friday in Jackson on Turner's request.

Turner's attorney, James Craig with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, said the lawsuit attacks restrictions by the Mississippi Department of Corrections on allowing prisoners to be evaluated by their own medical and mental health experts. Craig said Turner has a long history of psychiatric problems dating back to 1995.

Craig said the U.S. Supreme Court also will be petitioned to stop the execution. The nation's high court in January turned down Turner's post-conviction appeal.

The attorney general's office had not filed a response early Wednesday to Turner's motion. Attorney General Jim Hood was not immediately available for comment.

Turner, 38, was convicted in the 1995 deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry. Brooks, a clerk at Mims Auto Truck Village on U.S. Highway 82, was killed on the job. Curry, a prison guard, was shot to death while pumping gasoline at Mims One Stop on U.S. 82.

Turner, of Leflore County, and Paul Murrell Stewart, of Greenwood, were indicted for the slayings and a single count each of armed robbery. In a plea agreement, Stewart was sentenced to two life sentences without parole and testified against Turner.

Turner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1997 in Carroll County.

The Mississippi Supreme Court in 1999 upheld Turner's conviction and death sentence. Also in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Turner's initial.

Craig, who represented Turner in Mississippi before moving to Louisiana, said in court documents that the state has obstructed Turner's attempts to get help for mental illness that runs in his family.

"Our position is that it is unconstitutional, inhumane, and inconsistent with our moral and national values to execute a person who, like Hart Turner, suffers from a severe mental disorder or disability that significantly impacts his perception of reality, ability to make judgments, and ability to control his behavior," Craig told The Associated Press.

Craig said Turner has a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations before the shootings of Dec. 13, 1995.

"He had been committed to Whitfield in the summer of 1995 and released, on Prozac, in October of that year. Tragically, with the information the scientific and medical community now have, he would not have been released in our present time with a Prozac prescription. He went into a manic and psychotic spiral which ended in the deaths of Mr. Brooks and Mr. Curry," Craig said.

Published: Thu, Feb 2, 2012