June 01, 2008

Jurisdiction in Need: Mississippi

Although Mississippi does have an office of post-conviction counsel, the reality of a small staff and inadequate funding means that attorneys in the office are overwhelmed trying to represent the many men and women on death row who need counsel. Two recent executions have added to the workload and stress. There are currently sixty-four inmates on death row in Mississippi. Many are waiting for lawyers to investigate their claims and represent them in state post-conviction proceedings.  

Several of the Project’s volunteer civil law firms have recognized the urgent need in Mississippi and demonstrated the good things that can happen when skilled lawyers and adequate resources come together. In November 2007, Skadden LLP (Chicago) successfully obtained post-conviction relief for prisoner Fred Spicer after proving that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence of Mr. Spicer’s background and social history. The Supreme Court of Mississippi also granted petitions for post-conviction relief in August 2007 and October 2006 for prisoners who were represented by pro bono counsel recruited by the Project. Both cases were remanded to the trial court for evidentiary hearings on their claims of mental retardation.  If proven mentally retarded, the men will be ineligible for the death penalty.

Please contact us for more information about cases in Mississippi.