MENTAL ILLNESS: Mississippi Inmate With Severe Mental Illness Faces Imminent Execution

Edwin Turner (pictured), a death row inmate in Mississippi, is scheduled for execution on February 8. His attorney, Jim Craig, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and Governor Phil Bryant for a reprieve, based in part on Turner’s mental illness. Craig said, “The Supreme Court has not decided the question of whether a prisoner with a severe mental disorder or disability which significantly impairs that person’s ability to rationally process information, to make reasonable judgments and to control their impulses, whether people in that category can be executed. So we’re asking the Supreme Court to establish that it would be contrary to consensus of moral values, that it would be cruel and unusual punishment, to execute someone with severe mental illness.” Turner is facing execution for the 1995 shooting of a clerk and a customer at a gas station. His accomplice received a sentence of life without parole after pleading guilty to murder. Turner has a long family history of mental illness: his great-grandmother and grandmother were committed to state hospitals. Turner’s mother attempted suicide twice, and his father was killed in an explosion that some believe was a suicide. Turner has also attempted suicide several times, including one instance that left his face permanently disfigured. UPDATE: Altlhough a federal District Court granted a stay on Feb. 6, the Court of Appeals lifted the stay on Feb. 8, and the state is planning to carry out the execution as scheduled.

Attorney Craig has also petitioned a federal judge to allow Turner to undergo an MRI scan that may reveal that the part of Turner’s brain “that controls conduct that works for everyone else in this country just doesn’t work for him.” Craig added, “It’s like expecting someone with a broken arm to quarterback the Super Bowl. It’s just not fair.”

(J. Eng, “Too crazy to kill? Lawyers try to stop execution of inmate they say is mentally ill,” MSNBC, February 2, 2012). See Mental Illness and Clemency.