Lawyers seek to stop execution set for Wednesday

By Holbroook Mohr/The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for a former butcher convicted of dismembering a man over a drug debt and raping a woman he locked in a metal box have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to stop Wednesday’s planned execution.

Gary Carl Simmons Jr. is scheduled to be executed Wednesday at 6 p.m. CDT for the 1996 killing of Jeffery Wolfe, whose body was found in pieces in a Jackson County bayou. Simmons also was convicted of kidnapping and raping Wolfe’s friend and sentenced to life on those charges.

Simmons lawyers said in a motion Tuesday that recent mental exams show he has long-term substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and “mild executive-level brain dysfunction.” They also argue that his previous lawyers didn’t do a good job.

The attorney general’s office has argued in the past that Simmons’ sanity “is not in question.”

Simmons’ current attorneys say his trial lawyers didn’t explore mental health problems for sentencing purposes and the issue wasn’t properly raised by previous appeal lawyers.

The motion filed Tuesday said that until recently, Simmons “had never undergone a mental health evaluation for the purposes of developing mitigating evidence.”

Simmons’ previous appeals have been rejected by Mississippi courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

When the Mississippi Supreme Court set Simmons’ execution date on June 5, the justices also gave him permission to get two mental health exams. Simmons’ lawyers later asked for a two-week delay of the execution, saying more time was needed for the tests and to file appeals based on those results. The court declined that request in a 6-2 decision on June 14.

Court records say that Simmons planned the death and dismemberment of a drug dealer because he didn’t have the money to pay him for marijuana.

Wolfe and his female friend went to Simmons’ house in Jackson County on Aug. 12, 1996, to collect the debt — estimated at up to $20,000. Timothy Milano, Simmon’s former brother-in-law, shot Wolfe numerous times with a .22 caliber rifle inside Simmons’ home, according to court records.

Simmons raped the woman and put her in a metal box and used bolt cutters and the knives from his grocery store butcher job to dismember Wolfe in the bathtub, the court records said.

The woman escaped the next day and pieces of Wolfe’s body were found in a bayou behind Simmons’ home.

Simmons, 49, has argued during previous appeals that his death sentence is disproportionate because Milano killed Wolfe, and Milano didn’t receive a death sentence.

The men were tried separately.

Simmons was convicted of capital murder, kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to death for capital murder and to two life sentences, one each for kidnapping and rape, in August 1997.

Milano was sentenced to life for capital murder and 30 years for kidnapping, though he could also have been sentenced to death on the capital murder conviction. A rape charge was dismissed the morning his trial was to begin.

Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence has said the victim testified that only Simmons raped her and that juries can consider “heinous and cruel” as an aggravator when deciding on a sentence. He said the rape of the woman and the dismembering of Wolfe were especially “heinous and cruel.”