Federal judge lifts default order

Published 4:11 pm Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A federal judge ruled that the attorney general’s office did not deliberately fail to respond to a lethal injection challenge filed by four death row inmates.

Attorney General Jim Hood had asked U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper to lift the default. Hood contended in court papers that his office erred but it was an honest mistake and did no harm to the inmates’ complaint.

The inmates’ lawsuit alleges Mississippi’s current lethal injection procedure causes unnecessary pain and that employees administering the drugs are not properly trained.

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No trial date has been set for the inmates’ lawsuit.

On Friday, Pepper dismissed the default order, which found that the attorney general had failed to defend the state against a plaintiff’s claim.

Attorneys for the inmates had asked Pepper require Hood to agree not to seek any more execution dates pending resolution of the case in return for dropping the default order. Pepper said he would not do that.

Pepper said he did not condone that Hood did not follow the rules in responding to the lawsuit. The judge said Hood’s inaction “appears to be more of an issue of irresponsible behavior than it does willful disregard.”

The inmates involved in the case are:

— Alan Dale Walker, sentenced for the 1990 rape and murder of 19-year-old Konya Edwards of Long Beach.

— Paul Everett Woodward, sentenced from Perry County for the July 23, 1986, murder, kidnapping, robbery and rape of volunteer Youth Court worker Rhonda Crane.

— Gerald James Holland, sentenced from Adams County for the 1987 beating, suffocation and stabbing death of 15-year-old Krystal D. King.

— Dale Leo Bishop, sentenced from Lee County for his role in beating to death 19-year-old Marcus Gentry of Fulton with a hammer following an argument.

No execution dates have been set for Walker, Woodward, Holland or Bishop. Hood said all four have appeals pending in various federal courts.