Monday, February 6, 2012

The Impending Execution of Edwin Turner

Edwin Turner sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Mississippi on 8 February 2012. With no reasonable chance for a stay or other relief, he is unlikely to survive the day.

I provide a summary of his case from the adverse appellate decision of Turner v. State.
On the night of December 12, 1995, Appellant Edwin Hart Turner (hereinafter Turner) and Paul Murrell Stewart (hereinafter Stewart) had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana while driving around Leflore and Carroll Counties in Stewart's automobile. Around midnight the vehicle veered off the gravel road and became stuck in a ditch. Turner and Stewart walked to the nearby home of Doyle Carpenter, a friend of Turner's. Carpenter carried the pair to Turner's home when the trio were unable to free the automobile from the ditch. Once back at Turner's house, Turner and Stewart decided to rob some place. The crimes at issue in the present case occurred at two separate convenience stores approximately four miles apart on U.S. Highway 82 in Carroll County, Mississippi. 
The crime spree began at Mims Turkey Village Truck Stop. Turner and Stewart went into the store wearing masks and carrying high-powered rifles. Turner used a 6mm rifle, while Stewart carried a .243 rifle with a scope attached. Turner and Stewart walked into the store and then Turner shot Eddie Brooks, the store clerk, in the chest. Eddie Brooks slumped behind the counter and fell to the floor. 
Turner and Stewart went behind the counter to the cash register but could not get it to open. The two men became angry when they could not open the cash register. Stewart shot the cash register, but it still would not open. Turner, in a rage, struck the butt of his rifle on the cash register. Turner then shot at the cash register to no avail. Turner then became enraged. Turner placed the barrel of his gun inches from Eddie Brooks' head and pulled the trigger, killing Mr. Brooks. 
Unsuccessful in their attempt to get any money, the two men immediately drove to Mims One Stop. Everett Curry was standing next to a gas pump outside. There were several people inside. Stewart went inside the store to rob it while Turner made Everett Curry get on the ground by threatening him with his 6mm rifle. As Curry was pleading for his life, Turner shot him in the head, killing him. Meanwhile, Stewart was ordering the clerk to fill a paper bag with money. 
After killing Everett Curry, Turner then ran into the store and ordered everyone to get down. Turner then pointed a gun at a man in the store. Stewart urged Turner not to kill anyone else since they already had the money that they came for. Turner and Stewart then left the store and returned to Turner's house. 
Turner and Stewart put the guns inside Turner's house. Stewart left his white hockey mask on the back seat of Turner's car. Stewart then counted the money (about $400.) which they then split, while Turner prepared shrimp and cinnamon rolls which the two then ate. Turner and Stewart awoke later that morning to several law enforcement officers knocking on the door. The officers discovered two high-powered rifles in Turner's house. Turner and Stewart were then arrested and brought to Carroll County Sheriff C.D. Whitfield. Stewart gave a full confession outlining the above events. The Sheriff then got a search warrant for Turner's house. 
Turner was tried and found guilty of two counts of capital murder while in the commission of armed robbery. The jury then imposed the death penalty for both counts of capital murder.
Turner appealed based on the lack of an arrest warrant and the belated search warrant. The appellate court dealt with that issue in considerable length in their opinion and ruled against Turner. I find their ruling reasonable.

Absent any grievous procedural error, I oppose an execution if and only if there is some non-trivial possibility that the person to be executed is factually innocent. Otherwise, I stand mute regarding the propriety of the execution.

In the case of Edwin Hart Turner of Mississippi, I stand mute.

Edwin Turner has been executed by the people of Mississippi.


Anonymous said...

He is guilty but his lawyers are arguing that he may be mentally ill based on two prior suicide attempts that took place before the crime. Would you still stand mute ?

tsj said...

Yes, I would stand mute even if Turner were proven beyond doubt to have been mentally ill at the time of his crimes. To be clear, I would not support the execution, but neither would I take a public position opposing it.

My focus is on the wrongful conviction and punishment of those who are (or might be) factually innocent. I don't deny that there are valid legal issues beyond factual guilt or innocence.

I am overwhelmed already, however, with those who have been convicted and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. I choose to narrow my efforts and my writing to that subset of injustice.

Anonymous said...

The factors suggested Mr. Turner may have been mentally ill either at the time of the offence or later. Those factors notwithstanding, my updated research shows Edwin Hart Turner was executed by the state of Mississippi on 8 February 2012 after a last-minute stay was lifted the day after it was granted. He was pronounced dead at 6:21 pm CST that day, aged 38. Just type 'edwin hart turner executed mississippi' into Google if you are unsure.

Anonymous said...

The issue is whether he knew the difference between right and wrong at the time of the commission of the crimes. He did. Being depressed or suicidal is not the same as not know the difference between right and wrong.

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