Legal Question Could Delay Execution | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Legal Question Could Delay Execution

Jan Michael Brawner, 35, is set to become the second man executed in Mississippi in as many weeks.

Jan Michael Brawner, 35, is set to become the second man executed in Mississippi in as many weeks. Photo by Courtesy Mississippi Department of Corrections

On Sunday, Jan Michael Brawner turned 35. Tomorrow, the state could put him to death if he doesn't receive a reprieve. Brawner has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court for a stay of execution on the grounds that a majority of the court doesn't support executing him for the 2002 slayings of his ex-wife, in-laws and 3-year-old daughter.

The court was split 4-4 on the question of whether to hear Brawner's claim that he received ineffective counsel in earlier court proceedings. Justice Ann Lamar, who worked in the Tate County district attorney's office when Brawner committed the murders, did not vote. David Calder, Brawner's attorney, believes the tie means a question now exists as to whether the original execution warrant is valid.

He thinks the court should hear arguments on the issue. "Brawner steadfastly believes that if oral argument were granted and the state's feet were put to the fire, he would successfully gain the votes of a majority of this court," reads Brawner's June 6 stay of execution motion. Calder declined to be quoted for this story, citing his motions pending before the court.

The state, represented by Attorney General Jim Hood, disagrees that further arguments are needed. According to Hood's office, Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure prohibit Brawner from getting a rehearing, but Calder countered by arguing that justices have the authority to suspend the rules.

Calder also believes the case is potentially precedent-setting.

"If this execution is allowed to proceed, it will be the first time that the death penalty has been" upheld on a 4-4 vote in Mississippi and across the nation, he said in his response to Hood's motion, filed this morning.

Brawner's execution is scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman at 6 p.m. Last week, the state executed Henry Curtis Jackson. If Brawner's execution is carried out, it will be Mississippi's fifth of the year.

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