date with death today
Inmate William Mitchell was moved to a holding cell next to the execution
chamber at the Parchman state prison shortly after Larry Matthew Puckett was
put to death Tuesday night, according to Department of Corrections officials.
Puckett was executed for the 1995 sexual assault and slaying of his former
Barring a reprieve, Mitchell will be executed at 6 p.m. today.
Court records show Mitchell, 61, had been out of prison on parole for less than
a year for a 1974 murder when he was charged with raping and killing Patty
Milliken, 38, disappeared Nov. 21, 1995, after walking out of the Majik Mart
convenience store where she worked in Biloxi to have a cigarette with Mitchell.
Her body was found the next day under a bridge. She had been "strangled,
beaten, sexually assaulted and repeatedly run over by a vehicle," according to
Mitchell was convicted of capital murder in Harrison County in 1998.
On Wednesday, Mitchell filed a motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court for a
stay of execution, citing ineffective post-conviction counsel and violations of
his constitutional rights. He also asked for a second rehearing and filed a
motion asking the court to recall its mandate setting his execution.
The Supreme Court directed the state to file a response to the recall motion by
9 a.m. today.
On Tuesday, Mitchell also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution.
There had been no ruling issued by the court Wednesday. Mitchell's petition
cites issues already dismissed by Mississippi and other federal courts -
ineffective counsel during trial, his sentencing hearing and various appeals.
Mitchell argued the Mississippi courts denied his right to due process by
failing to address his "well-pled challenge" to his lawyers' inadequate
representation. He said the courts just ignored the issue by saying it had
already been adjudicated elsewhere.
That's the same argument the attorney general's office has made in the courts -
that the issue had been addressed and need not be rehashed.
Jim Craig of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a nonprofit law office,
does not represent Mitchell but has handled other death penalty appeals in
Earlier this week, Craig said Mitchell went through the post-conviction
proceedings as if he was just representing himself. Craig said Mitchell has a
long history of mental illness and that was never considered in the normal
course of his appeals.
According to court records, Mitchell, as a young adult, served in the Army but
by the 1990s, he had a long criminal record and had spent much of his adult
life behind bars. In 1974, he was charged with killing a family friend and
stabbing her daughter.