Remember Edwin Hart Turner

For Willie Manning time must be passing slowly: every day has come and gone without a new Order from the Mississippi Supreme Court. He knows only too well that the stay of execution that he has been granted is precarious.

In February last year a fellow inmate, Edwin Hart Turner, had a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) postponing his execution suddenly overturned at the Attorney General’s instigation. Edwin was executed before even the other inmates realized what was happening.

In attempting to obtain a TRO, Edwin’s attorneys argued that he needed a mental health evaluation, as he had committed murder while his condition was inadequately medicated (see the Daily Mail ).

The Federal Court for the Southern District of Mississippi accepted the need for a psychiatric assessment, and on Monday February 6 delayed the scheduled execution. However, the Attorney General, Jim Hood, was unhappy with this, echoing the objections that he has expressed recently to Willie’s request for DNA testing:

“(T)his present action is nothing more than an attempt to re-litigate a claim that has been properly adjudicated at every turn”.

Two days later, on Wednesday February 8, Hood persuaded a federal appeals court in New Orleans to vacate the TRO and allow the execution (read report at the Jackson Free Press.

Willie had long recognized Edwin’s mental health difficulties and tried to support him in any small way in which he could. He wrote about the last time that he saw Edwin:

“After they didn’t come to get him on Monday (as they normally do 48 hours before an execution) we all thought that the courts were about to seriously consider his mental illness. When they came to get him about 12 pm on Wednesday… I actually thought they were taking him out to a mental hospital hospital to be evaluated. I had no idea that the attorney general had appealed the court’s ruling and that his ‘stay’ had been vacated.

So when he looked upstairs at me and waved goodbye I gave him the thumbs up. Wow! That was really messed up. If anyone stood a chance of winning on that issue it should’ve been him. That situation should have opened a lot of eyes around here. I really hate that for my lil buddy.”

Sadly, Willie’s compassion for a man suffering from mental illness was not matched by those who had the power to delay his execution so that he could be provided with a more effective treatment than Prozac.

While Edwin went to his fate with hardly a protest from the public, Willie’s case has been scrutinized across the world. While Hood’s objections to Edwin’s TRO were barely questioned, his assertion that Willie’s lawyers were ‘dilatory’ has been labeled ‘Stinker Quote of the week’ by the Jackson Free Press in Mississippi.

Despite Willie’s relative advantages, we should not be complacent about his situation. Instead, we should remember how quickly things changed for Edwin Hart Turner.

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