The Mississippi Supreme Court, in a 4-4 vote decision this week, denied a rehearing on previous arguments in the case of Jan Michael Brawner.
In court procedures, a tie vote usually means an earlier ruling stands. But Brawner's lawyer filed a motion for rehearing and asked for a stay, saying there's precedent in Mississippi that tie votes in death penalty cases favor inmates. Brawner claims his previous appeals lawyer didn't do a good job and he wants an oral hearing on the matter.
The attorney general's office argued Friday that a 4-4 split is binding and that a petitioner can't file a second motion for rehearing. Brawner's lawyers are to respond with a rebuttal argument by Monday.
Justice Ann Lamar didn't participate in the tie vote. She was district attorney in Tate County when the slayings occurred on April 25, 2001. By the time the trial took place in April 2002, she was a circuit court judge, but not the one who presided over the trial.
Brawner, now 34, was convicted of the killings of his 3-year-old daughter, Paige, his ex-wife, Barbara Craft, and her parents, Carl and Jane Craft, at their home in Tate County.
Brawner admitted to the killings at trial and told a prosecutor he deserved death.
He went to his former in-laws' home after learning his ex-wife planned to stop him from seeing their child, court records said. He shot his daughter twice so she couldn't identify him after he killed the others. He also stole $300 and his former mother-in-law's wedding ring. He gave the ring to his girlfriend and proposed marriage later that day, according to the court records.