UPDATE:Miss. high court yet to rule on 2 execution dates

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Attorneys for Paul E. Woodward have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to hold up on setting an execution date so Woodward can ask Gov. Haley Barbour to commute his death sentence.

Woodward and Gerald James Holland filed responses Thursday to Attorney General Jim Hood’s request that the Mississippi court schedule their executions for May 19 and May 20, respectively.

Oxford attorney C. Jackson Williams told the court that Woodward intends to ask Barbour for a pardon or commutation of sentence. Barbour has never granted that request to any death row inmate.

Woodward, 62, of Monticello, was sentenced to death for the 1986 rape and shooting death of Rhonda Crane, 24, of Escatawpa.

Williams said Woodward must follow a timetable set out in state law for the request, a timetable that would be disrupted by the setting of an execution date. Williams said the timetable includes the publishing of the pardon request for 30 days in a newspaper.

“Mr. Woodward asks the court for a reasonable time in which to prepare a petition for commutation of his sentence and in which to comply with the constitutional publication requirement. He seeks a time that balances fairness with the state’s interest in finality,” Williams wrote.

Holland, at 72, is the oldest inmate on death row. Holland asked the Mississippi court for more time to respond to the attorney general’s motion. In action, the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel asks that it be appointed to represent Holland.

Holland, of Adams County, was sentenced to death for raping, beating, stabbing and suffocating 15-year-old Krystal King in 1987.

Attorney Steven D. Orlansky, with the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, said he has not had time to review Holland’s case since the attorney general’s motion was filed April 19. He said more time was needed to file an appropriate response.

Nonetheless, Orlansky said a limited review of the case raised some questions about the makeup of Holland’s trial jury in Adams County. He said it appeared their had been no jury registration in the county since 1956, which would have prevented some members of the community from being called to jury duty.

Orlansky also said there were questions about whether Holland suffers from brain dysfunction, which has not been thoroughly tested.

The Mississippi court has not yet ruled on the requests by Woodward and Holland.

The Mississippi court on Thursday granted Hood’s motion to withdraw an execution date request for inmate Joseph Daniel Burns, who has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Burns, 42, was convicted in the 1994 killing of Tupelo motel manager Floyd McBride at the Town House Motel. Prosecutors say Burns stabbed McBride while an accomplice opened the motel safe, then the two men fled with money from the safe.