By The Associated Press
JACKSON – A federal appeals court has refused to allow a Mississippi death row inmate to pursue a post-conviction claim that his attorney should have done a better job at his trial.
Edwin Hart Turner had sought approval from the federal courts for a certificate of appealability on the ineffective counsel issue.
The COA is similar to a post-conviction petition, in which an inmate argues he has found new evidence – or a possible constitutional issue – that could persuade a court to order a new trial.
The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Turner’s petition in 2007. A federal judge did the same in 2010.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Turner last week.
The Mississippi Supreme Court in 1999 upheld Turner’s conviction and death sentence for the 1995 killings of two Carroll County men, Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry. Also in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Turner’s appeal.
Turner, of Leflore County, and Paul Murrell Stewart, of Greenwood, were indicted for the slayings and on a single count each of armed robbery. In a plea agreement, Stewart was sentenced to two life sentences without parole and testified against Turner.
Brooks, a 37-year-old clerk at Mims Auto Truck Village on U.S. Highway 82 East, was killed on the job on Dec. 13, 1995. Shortly thereafter, Curry, 38, a prison guard, was shot to death while pumping gasoline into his car at Mims One Stop, also east of Greenwood on U.S. 82, according to the court record.
Among Turner’s claims were that his attorneys should have investigated his case more thoroughly, put on more witnesses and should not have gotten his case moved from Carroll County. Turner’s trial was held in Forrest County on a change of venue.
The Mississippi court ruled the decision to move the trial was part of the defense strategy and any argument from Turner about a different outcome was entirely hypothetical.
The 5th Circuit panel agreed and said Turner offered nothing but speculation that more investigation by his attorneys or the questioning of more witnesses would have changed the outcome of his trial.