Tag Archives: Mississippi

Tonight’s Execution: Willie Manning

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Editor’s Note: I’m traveling throughout April and May, and will have intermittent access to internet. Because of that, 1) I’m taking the liberty of sharing a Huffington Post story instead of writing my own and 2) postings may be less frequent or updated at a slower pace than usual.

UPDATE: By a vote of 8-1, the Supreme Court of Mississippi Tuesday afternoon halted the scheduled execution of Willie Manning, just hours before he was to be put to death by lethal injection at the Parchman prison.

From the Huffington Post:

Convicted double murderer Willie Jerome Manning, who has been on death row for nearly two decades, is set to be executed Tuesday, after being denied a DNA test that could save him from the execution chamber, the New York Times reports.

In a 5-to-4 decision in April, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that there was “conclusive, overwhelming evidence of guilty” and that DNA tests would not “preclude his participation in the crimes,” according to the Times.

But in a dissenting opinion Justice James W. Kitchens argued that “whatever potential harm the denial seeks to avert is surely outweighed by the benefits of ensuring justice by the scientific analysis of all the trace evidence.”

Dov Fox of the Georgetown University Law Center says that “no physical evidence has ever linked Manning to the crime,” in a Huffpost blog.

The 44-year-old black man was convicted in the 1992 kidnapping and murder of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, two white college students.

According to the Jackson Free Press:

One of the victims, Tiffany Miller, was shot twice in the face at close range. One leg was out of her pants and underwear, and her shirt was pulled up. Her boyfriend John Steckler’s body had abrasions that occurred before he died, and he was shot once in the back of the head. A set of car tracks had gone through the puddles of blood and over Steckler’s body.

Dov points out that a jury convicted Manning based largely on the testimony of a cousin of the defendant and a jailhouse informant, who claimed Manning confessed to him.

“The cousin had accused two other men before Manning, however, and the informant has since recanted altogether,” Dov writes.

The Washington Post points out that the justice department admits to flaws in forensic testimony as part of a broad review of the FBI’s handling of evidence in the 1980s and 1990s.

In urging Gov. Phil Bryant to issue a stay of execution, Death Penalty News pointed out that the tests could provide the identity of a possible second perpetrator who has never been caught and put to rest questions over now-outmoded forensic practices, used at the time of the investigation.

“Since 1994, Manning has been seeking DNA testing of the rape kit, fingernail scrapings that were recovered from both victims and hairs recovered from the scene,” the blog states.

In an Atlantic article entitled, “A Ghost of Mississippi: The Willie Manning Capital Case,” Andrew Cohen says the specters of racial bias, a faulty confession and untested scientific evidence have haunted this case.

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Countdown to an Execution: Carl Simmons Jr.

From Margaret Baker, who is on site at Parchman covering the execution for the Sun Herald:

PARCHMAN — MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps said condemned killer Gary Carl Simmons Jr. is in a “somber” mood today and not very talkative.

Simmons, he said, has not been a model inmate, having received more than 60 serious violations since he arrived at the state prison in 1997.

Those violations have included such things as “throwing hot water on staff, …destroying state property … and not following sanitation regulations…”

In addition, Epps said, Simmons had made various “threatening or intimidating” statements to MDOC staff over the years. In one instance, he said, Simmons told a MDOC staffer, ” ‘I’m going to kill you MDOC … and I hope Jesus loves you, boy.”

A jury in 1997 convicted Simmons, 49, and Timothy “Timmy” Milano, 34, of capital murder in the kidnapping and dismemberment of Texas man Jeffery Wolfe. A jury also convicted Simmons of the rape of Wolfe’s girlfriend, who was tied up and locked in a metal box before she later was escaped.

Simmons, a Pascagoula grocery store butcher, deboned and cut up Wolfe’s body into 88 pieces and dumped most of the remains in a bayou behind his Moss Point home.

Simmons has not had any visitors today, but his former defense attorney, Harvey Barton, visited him Tuesday.

Earlier today, at 5:36 a.m., Simmons was offered a serving of scrambled eggs, a slice of ham, a serving of Frosted Flakes, a biscuit, four packs of sugar, two boxes of milk and a cup of coffee.

Simmons ate the eggs, drank the milk and coffee.

At lunch, he was offered meatloaf, rice, salad and dressing, cornbread, gravy and a cup of punch. He ate the salad and drank some of the punch.

Simmons’ sister is scheduled to witness the execution along with Wolfe’s father, Paskiel Wolfe Sr., and his wife, Linda.

In addition to his sister, Simmons requested his two spiritual advisors and attorneys, Harvey Barton and Scott Johnson, witness the execution.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd and Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood are witnessing the execution as well.

For his last meal, Simmons has asked for a medium deep dish Pizza Hut supreme pizza with a double portion of tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, jalapeno and pepperoni slices as well other assorted toppings. He wants 10 packs of parmesan cheese, 10 packs of Ranch dressing, a 16-ounce family size bag of Doritos, eight ounces of Nacho cheese, four ounces of sliced jalapeno peppers, two large strawberry milkshakes, two Cherry Cokes, one super-sized order of McDonald’s french fries with extra ketchup and mayonnaise and two pints of strawberry ice cream.

Baker will be updating this story as the execution progresses, so you can check back here for more details. You can also follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/@Margar45

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Today’s Execution: Gary Simmons, Mississippi

From the Associated Press:

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi is preparing to execute a grocery store butcher convicted of dismembering a man over a drug debt and raping a woman he locked in a metal box.

Gary Carl Simmons Jr. is scheduled for execution Wednesday in the 1996 killing of Jeffery Wolfe, whose body was found in pieces in a south Mississippi bayou in 1996. Simmons also was convicted of kidnapping and raping Wolfe’s female friend, who was 18 at the time, and sentenced to two life terms on those charges. The Associated Press does not generally identify the victims of sex crimes.

If Simmons is executed, he will become the sixth Mississippi inmate put to death this year. The Mississippi Supreme Court declined Thursday to delay the execution in a 6-2 decision. Simmons’ lawyers had requested a two-week delay, saying more time is needed for two mental health evaluations and an appeal based on their results. The court gave no explanation for its ruling.

Simmons and his former brother-in-law, Timothy Milano, were both convicted of killing Wolfe, who drove to Mississippi from Houston with the female acquaintance to collect a drug debt, according to court records.

This is how court records describe the killing:

Wolfe and his friend went to Simmons’ house in Jackson County on Aug. 12, 1996, to collect the debt — estimated at up to $20,000 — and planned to vacation in New Orleans before returning to Texas.

Wolfe, or someone acting on his behalf, had been delivering marijuana to Simmons on consignment and Milano would sell it. Wolfe would come later and pick up the money, but this time, Simmons and Milano didn’t have the cash or the drugs.

Milano shot Wolfe numerous times with a .22 caliber rifle inside Simmons’ home. Simmons tied up the woman and put her in a metal box described as similar to a footlocker. At some point, he took her out of the box and raped her, saying that “her life depended upon how well she performed sexually.”

Simmons put the woman back in the box and cut up Wolfe’s body in the bathtub. One of Simmons’ co-workers testified that Simmons had sharpened the knives he used at work and took them home for the weekend. Court records said those knives and a bolt cutter were used to dismember Wolfe.

“After gutting him and severing his head and limbs,” Simmons and Milano carried the pieces out in buckets and used a boat to dump them in the bayou behind the house.

Simmons left the house and drove to Mobile, Ala., where he made a videotape for his ex-wife and children and told them how he felt about them and what to do with his property. He didn’t admit to committing a crime. However, among his statements on the video was, “I didn’t think until after it was done. I can’t make it undone. I would have. Oh God, I would have,” according to court records. The tape is being kept private in evidence.

The next morning, the woman was still locked in the box and heard the phone ringing. When nobody answered it she assumed the house was empty, forced open the box and escaped to a neighbor’s house. Simmons drove up and saw the woman at his neighbor’s house, then fled. Police came and found bloody buckets at the house and body parts in the bayou. Dr. Paul McGarry later testified that “the body parts had been cut sharply and with precision into block-like sections of tissue.”

When Simmons realized the woman had escaped, he went to see a friend and told him that he “whacked a drug dealer … deboned him, cut him up in little pieces, and put him in the bayou.” He also said he had locked woman in a box and he planned to “keep her around as a sex toy,” but she had escaped, according to testimony.

Simmons, 49, has argued during appeals that his death sentence is disproportionate because it was Milano who killed Wolfe, and Milano didn’t receive a death sentence. During his trial, Milano blamed Simmons for the shooting. But court records show prosecutors believe Milano was the trigger man and Simmons planned the killing.

Simmons and Milano were tried separately. Simmons was convicted of capital murder, kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to death for capital murder and to two life sentences, one each for kidnapping and rape, in August 1997.

Milano was sentenced to life for capital murder and 30 years for kidnaping, though he could also have been sentenced to death on the capital murder conviction. A rape charge was dismissed the morning his trial was to begin.

Harvey Barton, who represented Simmons during trial, said that even though Milano was the shooter, Simmons planned the killing, cut up the body and raped the woman.

“He was the ring leader,” Barton said.

Capital murder in Mississippi is defined as a killing that happens during the commission of another felony, in this case robbery.

Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence said the victim testified that only Simmons raped her and that juries can consider “heinous and cruel” as an aggravator when deciding on a sentence.

“I think that this case was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel, which can be seen in the manner in which the killing and rape were carried out,” Lawrence said.

Barton said Wolfe had a reputation as a dangerous man, including rumors he had killed someone before, and Simmons was afraid for his life because he didn’t have the money to pay the drug debt. Simmons tried to argue that it was self-defense.

“It was a kill or be killed situation” that quickly escalated, Barton said.

Barton said Simmons was remorseful and that he did the best he could in representing him, but the evidence was stacked against him. Barton said Simmons was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but the district attorney at the time refused.

Holbrook Mohr wrote this report.

2012 Could See Most Mississippi Executions Since 1950s


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Michael Brawner Executed in Mississippi

This post will be updated as details become available

Jan Michael Brawner was executed by death by lethal injection at 6:18 p.m. local time Tuesday, June 12 at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.

From The Associated Press:

“In his final statement, Brawner said he wished to apologize to the victim’s family, but could not change what he had done. “Maybe this will bring you a little peace. Thank you,” he said as he lay strapped to a gurney.

When the drugs were administered, he appeared to take a deep breath. His mouth opened wide for a moment and then his head tilted to the side.”

The Jackson Free Press has a rundown of the final hours of Brawner’s life, drawn from a press release from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. From the release:

June 12, 2012 Scheduled Execution of Jan Michael Brawner
2:00 p.m. News Briefing

Parchman, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) will hold three news briefings today related to events surrounding the Tuesday, June 12, 2012 scheduled execution of death row Inmate Jan Michael Brawner, MDOC #R3430. The following is an update on Inmate Brawner’s recent visits and telephone calls, activities, last meal to be served, and the official list of execution witnesses.

Approved visitation list:
Brian Peyto (friend)
Louwlynn Williams (attorney)
David Calder (attorney)
Laurence Komp (attorney)
Father Marvin Edwards (MDOC Chaplain)
Father Todd Pittman (spiritual advisor)
Davey Hammons (MDOC chaplain)

Visits with Inmate Jan Michael Brawner
Monday, June 11, 2012
David Calder (attorney)
Laurence Komp (attorney)
Davey Hammons (MDOC Chaplain)

Visits today, thus far:
Davey Hammons (MDOC Chaplain)

Activities of Brawner
Inmate Brawner was transferred from Unit 29 to Unit 17 on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. This morning, at Unit 17, Inmate Brawner was offered breakfast. He ate one serving of grits, 1 cinnamon roll, 2 boxes of milk. He did not eat the two boiled eggs or the one cup of coffee that were also offered. Inmate Brawner was offered lunch today. He ate two slices of turkey ham, squash and tomatoes, a salad, white bread, and one 10-ounce cup of punch. He did not eat the turnip greens or sliced peaches that were also offered.
Inmate Brawner has access to a telephone to place unlimited collect calls to persons on his approved telephone list. He will have access today, June 12th until 5:00 p.m.

Approved Telephone List
Brian Peyto (friend)
Louwlynn Williams (attorney)
Laurence Komp (attorney)
David Calder (attorney)
Linda Conn (friend)
Denise Richards (friend)
Ruby Havard (friend)
Vermell Williams (friend)
Daphne Lee (friend)
Jill Rider (friend)

Inmate Brawner’s Collect Telephone Calls

Monday, June 11, 2012
Two phone calls to Louwlynn Williams (attorney)
One phone call to Brian Peyto (friend)

Today, June 12, 2012
Thus far today:
Two phone calls to Louwlynn Williams (attorney)

According to the MDOC correctional officers that are posted outside his cell, Inmate Brawner is observed to be very talkative and in a good mood. He discussed the crimes that he was convicted of.

Brawner’s Remains
Inmate Brawner has requested that his body be released to Mississippi Mortuary Service, in Pearl, MS.

Last Meal
Inmate Brawner requested the following as his last meal: One DiGiorno Italian Style Favorites Chicken Parmesan pizza, One DiGiorno Italian Style Favorites Meat Trio pizza, a small salad (lettuce, pickles, black olives, tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese with Ranch dressing), small bottle Tabasco sauce, ½ gallon brewed iced sweet tea and 1 pint Breyers Blast Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.

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Tonight’s Execution: Michael Brawner

Mississippi death chamber

The second execution today will be carried out in Mississippi, where Jan Michael Brawner faces the death penalty for the April 25, 2001 shooting deaths of his daughter, Paige; his former wife, Barbara Craft; and her parents, Carl and Jane Craft. Brawner is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. EDT in Parchman, barring any last minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brawner was denied a stay of execution by the Mississippi Supreme Court on Monday, with a vote of 4-3. Brawner’s attorney filed appealled on Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court in a last ditch effort.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Subsequent lawyers have argued that Brawner’s trial attorney did a poor job by not calling such mitigating witnesses as his mother and a psychiatrist, who could have testified about things that had happened to him in life.

Brawner’s lawyer, David Calder, had argued earlier Monday in a court filing that his client could be the first person executed in the U.S. on a tie vote of judges. The Mississippi Supreme Court voted 4-4 last week to deny a rehearing in the case. Justice Ann Lamar didn’t vote. She was district attorney in Tate County when the slayings occurred. By the time of the trial in April 2002, she was a Circuit Court judge, though she didn’t preside over the trial.

In court procedures, a tie vote usually means an earlier ruling stands.

Brawner has requested a last meal of Italian-style pizza, salad, sweet tea and ice cream.

In related news, Mississippi is on pace to see the most executions since the 1950s, with four carried out so far and two slated for this month. From the Associated Press:

The last time Mississippi executed more than four inmates in any single year was in 1961, when five died in the gas chamber. There were eight executions in each of the years 1955 and 1956. In those days, inmates were put to death for crimes like armed robbery, rape or murder. Today, the only crime punishable by death in Mississippi is capital murder — a murder that happens during the commission of another felony.

Read more:

Mississippi Inmate Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Stop Tuesday Execution

Mississippi Supreme Court Refuses Brawner Reprieve

2012 Could See Most Miss. Executions Since 1950s

 Editorial: Death Penalty Death Watch: Mississippi

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Last Week’s Execution: Henry Jackson Jr.

I tweeted about this execution last week, but wasn’t able to cobble together a blog post about it until now. On June 5th, Mississippi executed Henry “Curtis” Jackson Jr., who was accused of fatally stabbing four young nieces and nephews in 1990.

From the Associated Press:

“Authorities said 47-year-old Henry “Curtis” Jackson Jr. was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. local time Tuesday after receiving an injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

The execution was carried out after the state’s governor rejected a request by two of Jackson’s sisters to spare him.
Court records show Jackson killed the children, ages 2 to 5, on Nov. 1, 1990, at his mother’s home in the Delta region while she was at church, reportedly to take money from her safe.”
Jackson declined to make a last statement and also did not make a special request for a last meal. He did not eat any of the standard meal he was given. Jackson opted not to take the sedative inmates facing execution are offered. He spent his last hours visiting with family and writing letters.
Interestingly enough, two of Jackson’s sisters whose children were murdered by Jackson begged Governor Phil Bryant to spare his life.

“As a mother who lost two babies, all I’m asking is that you not make me go through the killing of my brother,” Regina Jackson wrote in a letter to Bryant.

She told the AP that she has forgiven her brother over the years. “If they kill him, they’re doing the same thing that he did. The dying is going to have to stop somewhere.”

Glenda Kuyoro, another of Jackson’s sisters, also wrote a letter to the governor.

“We are the victims in this case, and we are begging you not to let Curtis be killed. You can keep him in Parchman forever, but please don’t put our family through this horrible execution. We are not asking you to take pity on Curtis, we’re asking you to show US mercy. We have been through enough.”


Mississippi Executes Killer Who Fatally Stabbed 4 of His Nieces and Nephews

Sisters Want Death Row Brother, Henry Curtis Jackson Jr., Who Killed Their Kids Spared 

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Executions Stays With Reporter

From the Hattiesburg American, an account of the execution of Larry Puckett in Mississippi by reporter Jesse Bass:

It was time to go. A swarm of Mississippi Department of Corrections personnel told me to leave everything I brought on the table – no wallet, no pen, no cellphone.

I walked through a maze of banisters into the “shakedown room.”

A prison guard made sure I really left everything behind, ushered me through a quick briefing and into a prison van with doors that don’t open from the inside.

And the morbid, suspenseful wait began.

Attempts at small talk between those of us in the van floundered quickly.

I silently peered through the bars on the van window for 55 minutes before someone let me out, and by that time, we were already inside the perimeter fence of Unit 17. Two layers of chain link draped in razor wire were split by a row of staggered electrified cables.

I was halfway through a morose process Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel aptly described as “choreographed.” A dance with many steps. Documentation, access control, inspection, preparation, movement.

A squat, doomy red brick building with tiny windows pushed up against the eaves contained only one prisoner – the prisoner I had come to see.

I walked into a tiny hallway and met frigid air carrying the strong smell of institutional cleaning products.

The corridor ended with a closet-sized room and a window offering a clear view of Larry Matthew Puckett.

The time had come.

He was strapped to a table with several wide brown-leather bands, lined up longitudinally along his body, with the exception of those securing his left arm to an outcropping, ending where his fingers were wrapped in several layers of black tape.

He stared at the ceiling through glasses, blinking erratically. He looked nervous.

The clear tube inserted at his left elbow was the only object breaking the circle of nameless men and women in suits surrounding him inside a small room made of bricks painted stark white.

He didn’t have anything to say with his last breaths. But he took advantage of them, sucking as much air as he could until his lungs fell silent.

And it was over.

Rigel later eloquently described Puckett’s death as “sterile.”

Those of us who survived March 20, 2012, at Unit 17 sat stoic, not making a sound for almost 13 minutes as we stared at Puckett’s corpse. It was the purest silence I’ve ever heard.

The scratching of my MDOC-issued pencil and notebook sounded like a wire brush on the head of a snare drum.

He went out quietly with a reality so subtle it was practically transparent – a reality that was easy to tuck away in the back of my head on the van ride back to the table that held my wallet and pen.

But like a seed planted deep in my brain, it has grown from its initial silent subtlety into an ominous, searing presence.

Watching Puckett die has left me pondering much – far more that I can adequately describe here.

One thing’s for sure: After watching that, I feel like anyone’s opinions on the merits or pitfalls of capital punishment are incomplete until they watch it happen.

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William Mitchell Executed in Mississippi

         William Mitchell was put to death in Mississippi for the 1995 slaying of a convenience store clerk. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier Thursday declined to stop Mitchell’s execution.

In an article detailing Mitchell’s last day, details such as his final meals are outlined:

Mitchell was transferred from Unit 29 to Unit 17 at 6 p.m. Tuesday. This morning, at Unit 17, for breakfast at 5:07a.m., Mitchell ate potatoes with beef gravy, 2 biscuits, dry cereal, milk and coffee.

Mitchell was offered lunch today but chose to not eat.

Mitchell also has made several phone calls over the last few days to friends, his attorney and family. He had access to a phone until 5 p.m. today.

Read more:

Mississippi Executes Inmate for 1995 Sex-Slaying

US Supreme Court refuses to block Miss. execution

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Tonight’s Execution: William Mitchell

Mississippi is set to carry out its second execution of the week, this time for 61-year-old William Mitchell. Mitchell’s execution is set for 6 p.m. local time at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. If carried out, it will be the third execution this year in Mississippi and the eleventh in the nation.

Mitchell was convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk in 1995. Mitchell had been out of prison on parole for less than a year for a 1975 murder when he was charged with raping and killing 38-year-old Patty Milliken after she disappeared from her job in Biloxi toward the end of her shift in November 1995.

On Tuesday, Mitchell asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution. Documents filed by Mitchell said his previous attorneys didn’t do a good job and Mississippi courts have refused to give him a hearing and an expert to prove his “intellectual disability.”

Mitchell argues the Mississippi Supreme Court twice refused to consider his ineffective counsel claims stemming from actions by his lawyers during the penalty phase of his trial and during his post-conviction petitions.

He said at no time did his attorneys try to develop evidence of his “intellectual disability” when evidence was available or could be available if he was given a psychological evaluation.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said issues raised by Mitchell have been addressed by other courts and should be rejected.

Jim Craig of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a nonprofit law office, does not represent Mitchell but has handled other death penalty appeals in Mississippi. Craig said Mitchell has a long history of mental illness and that was never considered in the normal course of his appeals.

According to court records, Mitchell, as a young adult, served in the Army but by the 1990s, he had a long criminal record and had spent much of his adult life behind bars. He was charged twice with beating women in 1973. In 1974, he was charged with killing a family friend and stabbing her daughter.


Read more:

Mississippi Set to Execute Man for 1995 Brutal Murder

Mississippi Death Row Inmate William Mitchell Awaits Execution for Coastal Slaying in 1995.

Mitchell Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Halt His Execution

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Larry Puckett Executed in Mississippi

Tonight Mississippi carried out the first of two scheduled executions in the state, with the lethal injection of Larry Puckett.

Puckett, 35, was an 18-year-old Eagle Scout when he was charged with the 1995 murder and sexual assault of the wife of his former boss.

According to an article by the Associated Press:

Puckett’s supporters claimed that the woman’s husband killed her in a jealous rage, the victim’s mother said she found Puckett in the home holding an axe handle, which prosecutors said was used in the killing.

“I caught him in her house with the club in his hand,” Nancy Hatten told The Associated Press on Friday. “Her husband wasn’t anywhere on the premises at the time. He drove up later.”

Griffis’ husband found his wife’s battered body in the living room, according to court records. Puckett had worked as a landscaper for Griffis’ husband, and the crime occurred weeks before Puckett was scheduled to leave for basic training with the Navy.

Puckett, who ran from the home, was captured two days later. He confessed to being at the Griffis’ home to burglarize it, but claimed Griffis’ husband killed her, according to court records. Puckett was sentenced to death on Aug. 5, 1996.

Thousands of supporters signed an online petition for Puckett and some rallied at the state Capitol in Jackson Monday, but Gov. Bryant refused to grant a reprieve.

Puckett was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m. at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. He spent his final hours visiting with his family and a spiritual adviser. His requested last meal consisted of Macadamia nut pancakes, shrimp and grits, ice cream cake, caramel candy and root beer.

Another Mississippi inmate, William Mitchell, faces execution Thursday. He was convicted in the 1975 raping and killing of Patty Milliken.

Larry Matthew Puckett executed for slaying of former boss’ wife

Larry Matthew Puckett, Mississippi Death Row Inmate, To Be Executed


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