Delay sought in pending executions

The attorney for two Mississippi death row inmates, seeking to delay the men’s impending executions, is arguing in court papers that the men received inadequate counsel.

Glenn Swartzfager of the Mississippi Office of Post-Conviction Counsel filed papers Thursday for Rodney Gray and on Monday for Benny Joe Stevens, asking the state Supreme Court not to set the execution dates requested by Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hood requested Gray’s execution be scheduled for April 27 and Stevens’ for May 4.

Hood filed the request on Gray on March 28, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear Gray’s appeal. The justices did not give a reason.

Gray was sentenced to death in 1996 for the 1994 rape and murder of 79-year-old Grace Blackwell of Louin.

Swartzfager wrote that Gray’s previous attorney didn’t develop evidence of Gray’s “substantial brain dysfunction and traumatic childhood.” Swartzfager also wrote Gray hasn’t had a thorough mental evaluation.

On Stevens’ behalf, Swartzfager argued in court papers that a previous attorney didn’t have time or resources to properly represent Stevens.

“Though post-conviction counsel was appointed for Stevens, it cannot be said under any stretch of the imagination that Stevens was truly represented by counsel in his initial state post-conviction proceedings,” Swartzfager wrote. “His appointed counsel, Robert M. Ryan, was counsel in name only.”

Swartzfager wrote that Stevens has a history of serious head injuries.

“Mr. Ryan admitted that he conducted virtually no investigation; he did not even interview trial counsel or seek expert assistance, even though it was obvious that Mr. Stevens’ mental state and social history were critical to this case,” Swartzfager wrote.

Hood petitioned the state Supreme Court last week to set the execution date for Stevens. The U.S. Supreme Court on April 4 declined to hear Stevens’ appeal.

Stevens, now 52, was sentenced to death in 1999 in the slaying of four people in the Foxworth community of Marion County. Among those killed were Stevens’ former wife and their 11-year-old son.

Killed were Glenda Lee Reid, 38, Stevens’ former wife; Wesley Lee Reid, 38, the woman’s husband; Dylan Reid, the son of Stevens and Glenda Lee Reid; and Heath Pounds, 10, who apparently was spending the night with Dylan Reid.


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