Supreme Court denies Wilchers request

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Wednesday night denied a request to delay the execution of death row inmate Bobby Glen Wilcher.

Wilcher’s attorney, J. Cliff Johnson II of Jackson, filed documents with the court Tuesday, saying Wilcher needed time to have his claims of mental illness heard through the federal courts.

Justice Chuck Easley, writing for the court, rejected the request in a ruling issued Wednesday night. Wilcher’s execution is scheduled for July 11.

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Johnson had said the U.S. District Court in Jackson had been asked to reinstate a stay of execution and order a mental evaluation of Wilcher. A federal judge has not yet ruled on those requests.

Johnson also said the state Supreme Court has authority to order a mental evaluation of the inmate.

In response filed to Wilcher’s motion, Assistant Attorney General Marvin “Sonny” White said the Mississippi Supreme Court should not grant a stay of execution while motions are pending in the federal court.

White had said if the federal court finds Wilcher’s arguments convincing, it could issue a stay. He said the Mississippi court should not get involved in what is a federal matter.

The attorney general’s office also opposed a stay of execution of Wilcher in a brief filed with the federal court, White said.

On June 16, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate granted Wilcher’s request for the state to move forward with the execution. Wilcher, now 44, has been on death row more than 20 years.

He was sentenced to death for the 1982 murders of Katie Belle Moore and Velma Odell Noblin in Scott County.

After the women agreed to give Wilcher a ride home from a Forest bar, he diverted them down a side road and stabbed them at least 20 times each.

Wilcher was convicted in separate trials in 1984, receiving the death sentence in each case.

In 1993, new sentencing trials were ordered. Wilcher was re-sentenced to death in 1994 in both cases.

In 2003, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Wilcher presented no post-conviction claims that could lead to a new trial.

On Monday, the Supreme Court set Wilcher’s execution date at the request of the attorney general’s office.

In documents filed Wednesday, Johnson said the federal courts needed time to consider Wilcher’s claims of mental illness, that conditions on death row at the state penitentiary at Parchman contributed to Wilcher’s mental condition, and that a mental evaluation is required by past federal court decisions.

Johnson said the law required that Wilcher be examined to determine if he is “free of any mental disease, disorder or defect which might have affected his ability to knowingly and voluntarily choose to end his life.”

Johnson said the state Supreme Court has ordered a mental examination in a similar case, that of former death row inmate Jimmie Mack, also known as Jimmy Mack.

In March 1998, Mack told the Supreme Court he wanted to be executed. The court, at the urging of Mack’s court-appointed attorney, ordered a mental examination. Mack has since been sentenced to life in prison.

Mississippi’s last execution was in December 2005, when John B. Nixon Sr. died by lethal injection for the 1985 contract killing of Virginia Tucker of Brandon.