Inmate Simon asks for halt to today’s execution

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Death row inmate Robert Simon Jr. has asked a federal appeals court to stop his execution, scheduled for Tuesday in Mississippi, until his claim of mental disability is thoroughly reviewed.

In documents filed Monday in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Oxford attorney Tom Freeland said Mississippi courts rejected Simon’s claims despite serious questions about the inmate’s mental competency.

In an appeal rejected earlier by the Mississippi Supreme Court, Simon’s attorneys claimed he had fallen and hit his head in prison. They said the resulting injury left him incompetent to be executed.

“Despite serious questions about his competency to be executed, including an affidavit for a qualified neuropsychologist who reviewed Mr. Simon’s records, neither the state court nor the federal court would allow for an appropriate and reliable evaluation,” Simon’s petition said.

Simon claims the care he received at the Parchman penitentiary “was not adequate to assess his competency to be executed.”

In the state response, Attorney General Jim Hood said Monday the question of Simon’s mental competency has been rejected by federal and Mississippi courts.

“The state would assert that Robert Simon is malingering incompetency. Simon appears to have no trouble communicating, in English, in a normal manner when he chooses to do so,” Hood said in the response.

Hood said Simon failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his incompetency claim.

The 5th Circuit did not immediately rule on Simon’s petition.

Freeland said Monday that if the 5th Circuit appeal fails, a petition will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Simon, now 47, was one of two men convicted in the deaths of four members of a Quitman County family two decades ago.

Simon has been moved to a holding cell near the execution room at the prison. The penitentiary was being placed on lockdown Monday, the usual procedures the day before an inmate is scheduled to be put to death. The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Simon was convicted and sentenced to death in the Feb. 2, 1990, slayings of Carl Parker, his wife, Bobbie Jo, and their son Gregory, 12. The killings occurred a few hours after the family had returned to their rural Quitman County home from church services.

He also was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Charlotte Parker, 9, the slain couple’s daughter.

Authorities said the bodies of the Parker family were pulled from their burning house. All four had been shot, but an autopsy showed Charlotte died from smoke inhalation.

Carl Parker’s truck was found in Clarksdale that night. After an investigation, Simon and Anthony Carr were arrested in Clarksdale.

Carr, now 45, was convicted on four counts of capital murder and sentenced to die. No execution date has been set for Carr.

The whole process of appeals for Simon and Carr took a financial toll on Quitman County.

In 1999, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that counties must pay for attorneys in post-conviction appeals.

Mostly rural and property-poor Quitman County, in the Mississippi Delta, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on appeals by Simon and Carr.

Chancery Clerk T.H. “Butch” Scipper said Monday that the county spent general budget money, reserve funds and issued $150,000 in bonds to pay for the two men’s appeals.

“We put taxes on our people” to pay for the appeals, he said.

The state now has an office that handles post-conviction appeals by death row inmates.

Scipper said the slaying of the Parkers was a “horrific” crime that still reverberates in the county.

“We not only lost a good family and good friends but their families and the community have never recovered from that. I am not sure they ever will,” Scipper said.

He said people in Quitman County expect Simon to be executed Tuesday and are looking ahead to the execution of Carr.

“Everybody I’ve talked to wants to know when are we going to have the second one,” Scipper said. “This was a horrific crime and certainly the question is why has it taken so long for justice to be carried out. Simon and Carr were convicted at the same time. You would think they’d be executed pretty close together.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

The Associated Press

Click video to hear audio