Miss. high court asked to reconsider Berry execution

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — Lawyers for condemned inmate Earl Wesley Berry have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to reconsider its setting of a May 21 execution date.

In a court filing Monday, Jackson attorney Jim Craig again attacked the state’s procedure for lethal injections.

Craig also renewed his arguments that Berry is mentally retarded and under U.S. Supreme Court rulings should not be executed.

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Berry was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of Mary Bounds. Berry was convicted of kidnapping Bounds outside the First Baptist Church in the north Mississippi town of Houston after she attended choir practice on Nov. 29, 1987. He beat her to death before dumping her body in the woods. His confession was used against him at trial.

Attorney General Jim Hood has argued that Berry is not mentally retarded. Hood also has argued that Mississippi’s procedure for lethal injection closely follows that of Kentucky’s, which was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections is proceeding with plans for Berry’s execution at the Parchman prison on May 21.

Craig said in court documents that Mississippi’s procedures fall far short of the Kentucky standard.

“We were also shocked to find that Dr. Stephen Hayne, who allegedly handles over 1,000 autopsies per year, and whose testimony has resulted in the conviction of two men who were found innocent and released from prison earlier this year, is the physician used in case there is an emergency during the procedure. We think he is unqualified to serve in this role,” Craig said.

Hood has said that Hayne’s role — if any — has been very limited.