By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press
JACKSON — Death row inmate Howard Dean Goodin goes back before the Mississippi Supreme Court on Oct. 2 with arguments that he is mentally disabled and should not be executed for the 1998 shooting death of a Union, Miss., man.
A second death row inmate — Jason Lee Keller, who was sentenced to death in Harrison County for killing a Biloxi convenience store owner in 2007 — is set for hearing on his case on Oct. 15.
The cases are among dozens the state Supreme Court has on its September-October docket.
Goodin’s first court-ordered mental evaluation came in 2003. He was found competent.
Goodin appealed to the Supreme Court, again arguing that he was mental disabled and his attorney’s failure to pursue the competency issues at his trial required another evaluation.
In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered a second mental examination. After the second evaluation, Scott County Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon in 2010 again found Goodin competent.
Goodin was sentenced to death in Lamar County in 1999 for the Nov. 5, 1998, armed robbery and murder of Union store owner Willis Rigdon, 64.
At Goodin’s trial, a surveillance tape played in court showed he entered Rigdon Enterprises, stole from the cash register and took a VCR and videotape, according to the court record.
The surveillance tape also showed Rigdon raising his hands as he was led at gunpoint from the store and forced into his pickup truck.
Rigdon was shot with a pistol after a short trip down a nearby dirt road. He was dumped in a ditch and died later at a hospital.
In Keller’s case, a death sentence was handed down for the 2007 robbery and shooting death of 41-year-old Hat Nguyen, a single mother of four who worked at convenience store in Harrison County.
Court records show the Nguyen family lost their home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and lived in the back of the store.
Keller, now 33, is already serving life without parole for the armed robbery of a Hancock Bank branch in Lyman, Miss. The robbery occurred six months before Nguyen was killed. He was convicted of the robbery in December 2007 and sentenced as a habitual offender because of previous felony convictions.
Prosecutors said Nguyen was shot four times. A shot to the back of her head was fatal.
In another case scheduled for oral argument on Sept. 17, prosecutors will ask the Supreme Court to reinstate the conviction of Jeffrey Dale Beecham, who won a new trial on charges he was intoxicated when he caused a 2007 accident in DeSoto County in which an elderly woman died.
The state Court of Appeals last year ordered a new trial for Beecham on grounds his lawyer was not allowed to question the doctor who prepared Freda Lovelace’s death certificate.
Beecham claimed — and the Appeals Court agreed — that it was a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers.