Two challenges to Mississippi death penalties pending. 


The U.S. Supreme Court has pushed back a decision on the appeal of death row inmate Richard Gerald Jordan to at least May 14. Jordan’s arguments of prosecutorial vindictiveness and ineffective assistance of counsel have been pending before the nation’s high court since January.

In those months, the court has asked for case documents from the Mississippi Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court in Jackson and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. That indicates at least one justice had questions about Jordan’s earlier appeals.

Jordan was convicted of capital murder committed in the course of kidnapping Edwina Marta in Harrison County in 1976. Now 68, Jordan is the oldest inmate on Mississippi’s death row, having won three successful appeals only to be resentenced to death. He’s also the longest serving, having spent 38 years in death row.

The attorney general’s office was poised to seek an execution date for Jordan if the Supreme Court had denied the appeal.

In April, Jordan and fellow death row inmate Ricky Chase filed a federal lawsuit in Jackson challenging the legality of the state’s lethal injection procedures. They are opposing the state’s plans to execute prisoners by mixing pentobarbital from ingredients it purchased from a compounding pharmacy in Grenada. Lawyer Jim Craig said Mississippi doesn’t seem to have ever used the drug in an execution, and he questioned whether the state can mix a safe and effective anesthetic for prisoners.

Mississippi’s current supply of pentobarbital is supposed to expire May 20. If the state cannot obtain pentobarbital, there is no backup method of execution. Hangings ended in 1940 as a means of execution. Mississippi stopped using the electric chair in 1954 and use of the gas chamber ended in 1998.

Faced with similar challenges, Oklahoma recently enacted a law allowing execution by nitrogen gas as a backup to lethal injection. Utah reinstated the firing squad.

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