Shannon man says “I’m worthy of death”

David Neal Cox

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi prison employees will conduct once-a-week rehearsals as the state prepares for its first execution since 2012, Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain says.

Cain told The Associated Press on Friday that the rehearsals for a lethal injection are usually done once a month at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, following a protocol that's about 20 pages long.

“Very, very detailed,” Cain said.

The Mississippi Supreme on Thursday set a Nov. 17 execution date for David Neal Cox, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to killing his wife, Kim, in 2010 in the northern Mississippi town of Shannon. Cox withdrew his appeals and once filed court papers calling himself “worthy of death.” Mississippi has not had an execution since 2012, and it had six that year.

Cain confirmed Mississippi has obtained lethal injection drugs, but he declined to say how.

“I'm not supposed to talk about the drugs too much,” Cain said.

Mississippi is still facing a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center on behalf of two inmates. The suit argues Mississippi's lethal injection protocol is inhumane.

Several states have had trouble finding drugs for lethal injections in recent years since pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe began blocking the use of their drugs for executions.

According to court papers, Cox shot his wife twice and then sexually assaulted his stepdaughter in front of a dying Kim Cox while police negotiators and relatives pleaded for her life. David Cox pleaded guilty to sexual battery, kidnapping and other crimes without making a bargain with prosecutors that precluded the death penalty. A jury sentenced him to death.

Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith ruled in April that Cox, 50, was mentally competent to waive his appeals. The Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel appealed Smith's ruling. Justices on Thursday affirmed Smith's decision and denied the appeal by the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel.

Cox wrote to the chief justice of Mississippi Supreme Court in August 2018 saying he wanted to fire his lawyers, relinquish all appeals and get an execution date.

In the ruling Thursday, justices wrote that in November 2018, Cox filed court papers saying “I am worthy of death.”

Justices had ordered the circuit judge to hold a competency hearing. Attorneys representing Cox argued he was mentally ill and not competent to waive his appeals. They also argued it would be unconstitutional for the state to execute him.

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