Miss. Supreme Court refuses stop execution

Published 4:41 pm Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court has refused to stop the scheduled execution of death row inmate Earl Wesley Berry, a move likely to put the case before a federal appeals court.

The Mississippi court issued the ruling Thursday after a round of legal wrangling in which Berry’s attorneys asked for a new hearing in the case. The court denied the request.

“The state Supreme Court has done its job and now Mr. Berry will answer for the terrible crime he has committed,” Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement Thursday.

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Berry is scheduled to die by lethal injection May 21 at 6 p.m. at the state penitentiary at Parchman.

Berry’s lawyers had hoped to argue in court that Mississippi’s method of execution is unconstitutional. They also claim the convict is mentally disabled and should not be put to death for the 1987 murder of Mary Bounds.

Berry’s attorney, Jim Craig, did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Berry, 49, was convicted of kidnapping Bounds from the First Baptist Church in Houston, Miss., on Nov. 29, 1987. He beat her to death then dumped her body in the woods. His confession was used against him at trial.

“Time has run out for Mr. Berry,” Hood said. “Justice is at hand, and we hope some measure of peace will come to the family of the victim in this case.”

Bound’s family has criticized the lengthy appeals process and was visibly distraught when Berry’s life was spared within minutes of his last scheduled execution on Oct. 30, 2007.

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked that execution until it had time to consider the legality of lethal injection after death row inmates in Kentucky claimed the procedure was unconstitutional.

The nation’s high court ruled last month that the method is acceptable. Berry’s attorneys, however, say Mississippi’s procedure is different from Kentucky’s and could cause pain.

Hood argued that the state’s lethal injection procedure is “substantially similar” to Kentucky’s and that Berry is not “mentally retarded.”

Bounds worked as a quality control supervisor for Seminole Manufacturing in Houston before her death. She is described as a deeply religious woman who reached out to those in need.