Who's on Death Row?

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

J.D. Burns’ execution Wednesday reduces to nine the number of Mississippi’s Death Row inmates convicted of crimes in Northeast Mississippi.
Four are black, five white.
Two are women, two-thirds of the condemned females in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Three come from Lee County and three from Oktibbeha County. The others hail from Tishomingo, Lafayette and Union counties.
Their appeals are classified with “DP” on them. Death Penalty.
When, and if, they will die is another story, often a long story.
Burns was on Death Row for 16 years after his Lee County conviction in 1996 for the robbery-stabbing death of Tupelo motel manager Mike McBride.
Now that Burns is gone, the region’s longest-serving Death Row inmate is Willie Jerome Manning, 42, at 15 years.
He was convicted in the 1992 murders of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller and the 1993 murders of Emmoline Jimmerson and Alberta Jordan, who were beaten and killed during a robbery of their Brooksville Gardens apartment.
His appeal in the Steckler-Miller murders for his other conviction has moved to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, while some issues in the other case are still pending back in the trial court in Oktibbeha County.
With Burns’ execution, Mississippi now has 59 inmates on Death Row. There is no typical length of time prisoners linger in the system awaiting their executions, says Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.
While some appeals are not extensive, others may continue across decades from motions for new trials, appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court and petitions up through the federal ranks to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For instance, Earl Wesley Berry of Chickasaw County had his appeals run through 21 years in the 1987 murder-kidnap of Mary Bounds.
Part of that reason lies in a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring courts to take extra time and care with death-sentence cases in which the convicted person claims mental problems or defects.
Both Berry and Dale Leo Bishop of Guntown made those claims on appeal.
Two months after Berry’s May 2008 execution, Bishop died by lethal injection for the 1998 claw-hammer beating death of Mark Gentry in Lee County.
In addition to Manning, here are the region’s other Death Row inmates:
- Charles Ray Crawford, 44. Convicted in 1994 of murder in Lafayette County. He also had convictions on aggravated assault in Lafayette County and rape in Chickasaw County from 1993. This case was moved from Tippah County, where Crawford kidnapped college student Kristy Ray, raped her, handcuffed her to a pine tree and stabbed her to death. His case is under review in federal district court.
- Marlon Howell, 30. Convicted in 2001 of the capital murder of a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal paper carrier, David Pernell, in Union County. Also a 2000 conviction for possession of controlled substances in Union County. His case awaits a hearing date on a post-conviction review in state court.
- Thomas E. Loden, 45. Convicted in 2001 of capital murder, rape and sexual battery of 16-year-old Leese Marie Gray in Itawamba County. His case awaits a decision on whether he will get a rehearing after his post-conviction review was denied. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals also sent his conviction back to district court to consider certain issues.
- Michelle Byrom, 53. Convicted in 2002 for the capital murder of her husband of 20 years and recruiting her son in the plot. Her case is under review in federal district court.
- Derrick Deo Walker, 29. Convicted in 2003 of capital murder of personnel director Charles Richardson and a residence arson in Lee County. His appeal is pending after he was found incompetent to proceed with post-conviction review.
- Kristi Leigh Fulgham, 33. Convicted in 2006 for capital murder in the shooting death of her husband, Joey, in Oktibbeha County. Also has convictions on attempted jail escape and smuggling a cell phone into the jail. Her direct appeal is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
- William Matthew Wilson, 29. Convicted in 2007 of the capital murder and child abuse of his girlfriend’s daughter, 2-year-old Mallow Conlee. His appeal for post-conviction review is pending in state court.
- Bobby L. Batiste, 30. Convicted in 2010 for the capital murder of his Mississippi State University roommate, Andreas Galanis, in Oktibbeha County. His direct appeal is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Schaeffer at the attorney’s general’s office says the next state execution will be Frederick Bell, 38, convicted in a 1993 Grenada County murder. No date has been set.
“We have other cases pending in the 5th Circuit,” she said, referring to the next appeals court above the Mississippi Supreme Court. “But none has been decided as of this date.
“There is no way to even guess which of the pending cases may be decided next.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.