By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Condemned state inmate Mack Arthur King may come off death row if a federal court accepts that he is mentally deficient.
King, now 53, was sentenced to die by a Lowndes County jury in the death of 84-year-old Lela Patterson in 1980. Patterson was beaten, strangled and drowned at her Lowndes County home during a burglary.
“King’s mental condition is clearly in controversy,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jason L. Davis on Dec. 18, 2012, when the state asked to retest King.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock presides over the federal appeal.
King’s attorneys claim he is mentally retarded, which makes him ineligible for the death penalty.
Apparently that’s what the state’s new examiner will say, too.
In a March 15 motion for more time, Davis said Dr. Gilbert S. Macvaugh III of Greenville “has not altered his preliminary assessment that King appears to be mentally retarded.”
A hearing to present evidence about King has been postponed repeatedly, the latest set for March 22. Tuesday, it was canceled because Macvaugh’s report was not ready.
Davis blamed “a large part of the delay” on efforts to secure King’s earlier trial psychological review and other data mislaid through the years. Ultimately Macvaugh did not receive additional information until March 7 and was out of state until March 15.
The state also admits its original mental evaluator, Dr. Michael Whelan of Greenwood, refuses to testify again and says he would be “a bad witness.”
King’s conviction and sentence were overturned on two previous state appeals. Then he was tried and convicted a third time in 2003 and sentenced to death. Initially, he was evaluated by a doctor as part of his defense.
His conviction was appealed to federal court in 2010 on numerous issues, including his mental state.