Edwin Hart Turner, Killer with Serious Mental Illness, Executed in Mississippi by Lethal Injection
A Mississippi man was executed Wednesday for a pair of murders committed while he was seriously mentally ill.
The Associated Press reports that 38-year-old Edwin Hart Turner was killed by lethal injection yesterday evening at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Turner was convicted of capital murder for the deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry, both of whom were shot dead at two gas stations. Turner acted with an accomplice who testified against him in exchange for a life sentence.
Turner’s lawyers had tried to block the execution on the grounds that he was seriously mentally ill at the time of his crimes. Turner’s mental illness was inherited from his father, who killed himself by shooting a gun into a dynamite-filled shed. Turner’s grandmother and great-grandmother were both mental patients. As for Turner himself, he was severely disfigured during a suicide attempt in which he placed a rifle in his mouth and shot himself when he was 18 years old. He had just been released from a mental institution only weeks before killing Brooks and Curry.
But Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said that Turner’s mental illness claims had been “fully addressed,” and Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, refused to grant a reprieve.
“I have decided not to grant clemency for his violent acts,” Bryant said.
The U.S. Supreme Court also failed to stop the execution. Turner’s lawyers had hoped that the high court would intervene to stop the execution of a mentally ill man. But only the mentally retarded are currently afforded protection from capital punishment.
Turner’s execution had been temporarily delayed by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves on Monday so that his lawyers could argue whether the state had improperly barred him from getting a psychiatric evaluation.
According to Amnesty International, the execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under international law. No less than three United Nations resolutions bar such killings.
Richard Bourke, director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (which represented Turner), released a statement lamenting that Mississippi was one of only a few states that failed to adequately protect the seriously mentally ill from the injustice of capital punishment.
“This needs to change,” he said in a statement. “At the very least, seriously mentally ill offenders whose illness contributed directly to their crimes should not be subjected to the death penalty.”
But the families of Turner’s victims felt differently.
“I don’t think we will ever have complete closure because a void will always exist in our hearts,” Roy Curry, Everett’s brother, said in a statement. “At least we will have some consolation in knowing that the person who committed this cowardly and senseless act is finally gone.”
Turner’s last meal consisted of a medium rare porterhouse steak, salad, fried shrimp, Texas toast, a pack of red Twizzlers and sweet tea.
He was strapped to a gurney wearing a red prison jumpsuit. He had no last statement. Soon after the lethal chemicals were injected into his body, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and seemed to fall asleep.
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