Death row inmate has appeal denied

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi officials asked Monday for an April execution date for death row inmate Rodney Gray after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear his appeal.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed a motion Monday asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to set Gray’s execution date for April 27. The Mississippi court, which would have to approve the request, gave Gray’s lawyers until April 7 to file a response to Hood’s motion.

Hood’s request came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not hear Gray’s appeal. The justices did not give a reason.

Gray was sentenced to death in 1996. He was convicted for the 1994 slaying of 79-year-old Grace Blackwell of Louin. Blackwell was last seen in her car withdrawing money from a bank, Hood’s office said in a news release. Her body was found later that day at the end of a bridge in Newton County. Hood said Blackwell had been shot several times and that her billfold, checkbook and other contents of her purse were found nearby. Her car was later found behind a service station in Decatur.

Hood said there could be several executions in Mississippi this year. Hood had already asked the Mississippi Supreme Court for an April 20 execution date for Robert Simon Jr. The Mississippi court didn’t immediately act on that request.

Simon was sentenced to die for the 1990 killing of Carl and Bobbie Jo Parker, and their 12-year-old son, Gregory. He also was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Charlotte Parker, the slain couple’s 9-year-old daughter.

Soon after asking for the April 20 execution date for Simon, Hood announced that Mississippi might have to change one of the three drugs it uses in its lethal injection procedure. That possibility of multiple executions this year only increases that likelihood.

Hood said last week that Mississippi “most likely will” use pentobarbital in the state’s next execution. But Hood said at the time that the state was still looking for more sodium thiopental, an anesthetic the state has used in the past as part of a three-drug mixture.

Sodium thiopental is one of the most common execution drugs used in the U.S., but a nationwide shortage has forced states to consider other options. Some states have already decided to use pentobarbital, a surgical sedative that is commonly used to euthanize animals.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as April on an appeal of Benny Joe Stevens. If U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Stevens’ appeal, Hood has said he would ask the Mississippi court to set a May 4 execution date for him.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

The Associated Press