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Mississippi executes man who lawyers said was mentally ill

AP

Edwin Hart Turner was executed Wednesday despite lawyers' pleas that he was mentally ill.

PARCHMAN, Miss. -- A Mississippi inmate has been put to death for killing two men in a December 1995 robbery spree after courts declined to stop the execution based on arguments that he was mentally ill.

Edwin Hart Turner, 38, was administered a lethal injection and died at 6:21 p.m. CST at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, authorities said. The inmate was convicted of killing the two men while robbing gas stations with a friend, Paul Murrell Stewart, in a spree that netted about $400. Stewart, 17 at the time, testified against Turner and was sentenced to life in prison.

Earlier story: Too crazy to kill?


Turner was strapped on a gurney wearing white shoes and one of the red prison jumpsuits issued to death row inmates. When a microphone was lowered to his mouth, he said, "No" when asked if he had a final statement. Then the chemicals began flowing through tubes into his body. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and had the appearance of falling asleep.

Turner was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry. Brooks was shot to death while working at Mims Turkey Village Truck Stop in Carroll County. Curry was shot to death while pumping gas at the nearby Mims One Stop.

Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Suzanne Singletary said a sister and cousin of victim Eddie Brooks watched the execution. The brother and son of his other victim, Everett Curry, also witnessed it. They were escorted out of the witness room after the execution, saying nothing as they were led away. Turner had requested that none of his family watch the execution, though two of his attorneys were listed to be witnesses.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused late Wednesday to block the execution. Earlier in the day, Gov. Phil Bryant had refused to grant a reprieve, saying after a review of the case, "I have decided not to grant clemency for his violent acts."

Earlier, Turner's lawyers had objected to the pace of events in the scheduling of the execution.

"Execution was set in this case with only 13 days' notice — a procedure that would be illegal in most other states. Mississippi has created a time crunch and forced both the courts and the Governor to respond to this most serious of cases with inadequate time and consideration," said Richard Bourke, director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center.

James Craig, another LCAC attorney representing Turner, had persuaded U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Monday to temporarily block the execution after arguing a Department of Corrections policy prevented Turner from getting tests that could prove he was mentally ill when he killed the two men.

That petition said Mississippi is one of 10 states that permit someone who suffered from serious mental illness at the time of the offense to be executed. Turner's lawyers wanted the court to prohibit the execution of mentally ill people as it did with inmates considered mentally retarded.

On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned the stay.

Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Turner was talkative in the hours before the execution Wednesday but declined to discuss the crimes for which he was sentenced to death. Asked if Turner seemed mentally ill, Epps said of the visit with the prisoner in those final hours: "No, not to me. He appears to be on the ball."

There's little dispute that Turner killed two men while robbing gas stations, then went home and had a meal of shrimp and cinnamon rolls before going to sleep.

Turner's lawyers argued in the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court that he inherited a serious mental illness. They argued that his father is thought to have committed suicide by shooting a gun into a shed filled with dynamite and his grandmother and great-grandmother both spent time in the state mental hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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