Mississippi carried out the third execution of 2012 tonight with the lethal injection of Edwin Hart Turner, after the courts declined to stop the execution based on arguments that the Turner was mentally ill at the time.
Turner, who died at 7:21 p.m. EST, was convicted for the 1995 deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry during convenience store robberies carried out with his friend, Paul Murrell Stewart. Stewart testified against Turner and was sentenced to life.
Turner’s attorneys tried to stop the execution, arguing he was severely mentally ill. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves temporarily blocked the execution to allow attorneys to argue whether the state has improperly get him from getting a psychiatric evaluation. Turner’s lawyers had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would outlaw executions of the mentally ill as it has done with people considered mentally retarded.
James Craig, a lawyer with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, argued in the petition to
the Supreme Court that Turner inherited a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia from his father, who 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.
Hart has attempted suicide several times, including putting a rifle in his mouth and shooting himself in the head when he was 18 years old. He was left permanently disfigured. He had been released from a mental hospital just weeks before killing the two men, his lawyers said.
“Mississippi is but one of 10 states who permit the execution of one who, like Turner, suffers from a serious mental illness at the time of his conduct at the time of the offense,” according to the legal filing.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing a mentally ill person amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is forbidden under the Constitution.
The nation’s highest court allowed the execution to go forward today when it rejected petitions to stop it. Earlier in the day, Mississippi 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.”
Wearing a red prison jumpsuit as he lay strapped on a gurney, Turner said, “No” when asked if he had a last statement. When the lethal chemicals began flowing, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and appeared to fall asleep.
The sister and a cousin of victim Eddie Brooks watched the execution. The brother and son of his other victim, Everett Curry, also did.
One of Curry’s other brothers read a statement for the family afterward.
“I don’t think we will ever have complete closure because a void will always exist in our hearts,” said Roy Curry, who did not watch the execution. “At least we will have some consolation in knowing that the person who committed this cowardly and senseless act is finally gone.”
Turner had requested that none of his family watch the execution, though his attorney and a pastor were present.