Burns seeks stay of execution, rehearing in murder case

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Joseph D. Burns, facing execution by lethal injection Wednesday, asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to stop his death.
“The reason is simple,” wrote his attorneys in their motion to stay his execution. “Joseph Burns did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his fundamental constitutional right to present mitigating evidence at sentencing.”
They mean he did not give up his right to present a Lee County jury with evidence that might have changed its decision that he should die at the hands of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The jury could have sentenced him to life without possibility of parole.
Burns’ attorneys also asked for permission to take his case back to Lee County for a rehearing.
Burns was convicted in 1996 in the stabbing death of a Tupelo motel manager committed during a robbery two years earlier.
Also in play is a clemency appeal to Gov. Haley Barbour and a request for his help in granting Burns a mental evaluation.
Last week, Daniel’s attorney, Glenn Swartzfager, said his client has a history of head injuries and began using drugs at the age of 10.
“Both of these factors are known to cause brain damage,” Swartzfager said. “No court has ever allowed a mental health expert to test Joseph for brain damage.”
July 14, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied this request, saying he should take the plea to Barbour.
In 2001, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted Burns’ motion to a local rehearing. But when it came back to Lee County, it was denied by Judge Frank A. Russell.
Another rehearing motion was denied in 2004.
If Burns dies Wednesday, he will be Northeast Mississippi’s third execution since 2008 – others are Earl Wesley Berry of Chickasaw County and Dale Leo Bishop of Guntown.
Ten of the state’s 61 death row prisoners are there for capital crimes committed in Northeast Mississippi.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.