Loden's death appeal moves into federal courts

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Thomas E. Loden Jr. seeks a federal review of his death sentence in the 2000 capital murder of Leesa Marie Gray.
Loden, 47, was convicted Sept. 21, 2001, in the Circuit Court of Itawamba County. He also pleaded guilty and was sentenced on rape and four sexual battery charges.
His appeals attorneys say one reason for his case review is that his guilty plea was not “knowing, voluntary or intelligent” based on his mental state then.
Psychiatric evaluator Dr. Gerald O’Brien wrote in a sworn statement that “this is the first case I have seen in which trial counsel expressed no reservations about his client’s competence or the voluntariness of the decision.”
The former Marine recruiter’s appeals attorneys raise multiple issues for a federal review. Among them are whether Loden had ineffective trial counsel and was improperly denied funds to hire a forensic social worker to investigate and present factors that might have given him a more lenient sentence.
The 64-page document claims his appeals attorneys have uncovered information helpful to Loden – a diagnosis of chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a type of amnesia. They also say they now have a “humanizing, complete picture” of Loden’s character that directly impacts what his sentence should have been.
His federal appeal includes detailed information alleging childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Those events, they say, led to his substance abuse and multiple suicide attempts.
They insist his trial counsel also overlooked his stellar Marine Corps record and PTSD symptoms from combat in the Gulf War.
And they say a final taunt by his wife over the telephone about an impending sexual affair left him upset and feeling helpless.
Their motion suggests police conducted an unlawful search of Loden’s van. They also say Loden was given erroneous advice that if he were sentenced to death, the Mississippi Supreme Court would review all the circuit court’s rulings.
Loden’s convictions were affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court in October 2007 and a rehearing denied in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court also denied to a review in 2008.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com