Nation - Mississippi Death row inmates ask for trial

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Fifteen death row inmates have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to reinstate their lawsuit that challenges how the state provides legal help for post-conviction claims.

The brief was filed Monday with the court.

The Supreme Court in July declined to stop executions while it considered the appeal.

A Hinds County judge dismissed the case on May 14.

The original lawsuit included 16 inmates. One of the plaintiffs, Gerald James Holland, was executed May 20.

None of the remaining 15 inmates has had an execution date set through Monday.

The lawsuit claims the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel was inadequately staffed and funded and its attorneys were not versed in handling death row appeals.

The state office was created in 2000 to lift the burden off counties to pay for continuing death row appeals.

The attorney general's office will file a response to the appeal sometime later.

In the appeal, which gives only one side of the legal argument, Jackson attorney Jim Craig said the state has consistently appointed unqualified, underfunded and overburdened attorneys who cannot provide the "competent and conscientious" post-conviction counsel mandated by law.

The Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel represents death row inmates in state post-conviction proceedings. In a post-conviction petitions, an inmate argues about new evidence -- or a possible constitutional issue -- that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

The inmates allege in the complaint that the Supreme Court itself has faulted MOCPCC counsel for filing petitions that are incomplete, contain misspellings and lack in key arguments and evidence.

Published: Wed, Oct 20, 2010

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