Death row inmate seeks new arguments

December 27, 2013 8:44:39 AM



JACKSON -- Death row inmate Charles Ray Crawford is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to let him file a new petition that he believes will win him a new trial. 


Crawford argues in a new motion that his previous attorneys did a poor job of handling his first petition for post-conviction relief. 


Crawford argues that if the court allows him to try again, he'll explain his arguments better. In a post-conviction petition, inmates argues they have found new evidence -- or a possible constitutional issue -- that could persuade a court to order a new trial. 


Crawford is now 43 and was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder and rape of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County. 


Crawford also has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Crawford handcuffed the 20-year-old Ray and stuffed one of his socks in her mouth before sexually assaulting and stabbing her to death in 1993. 


He claimed he did not remember the attack, but led authorities to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area. 


Crawford's first post-conviction petition was denied in 2003 by the Mississippi court. The justices said Crawford may not like how his attorney presented his defense, but there's nothing in the case that justified a new trial. 


The Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel now argues if Crawford can file a second petition he will show his lawyers "filed incomplete pleadings, did not obtain any expert assistance and failed to conduct even a cursory investigation into the capital crime and Mr. Crawford's background and family." 


The counsel office said it also wants to file with the court a mental examination conducted in November, arguing testing done in 1993 was incomplete. 


Crawford also has appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in which he is asking for a review of an alleged constitutional error in his trial for the slaying of the college junior. 


A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June upheld a 2012 decision in Mississippi's Northern District federal court. 


Both courts said while Crawford was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel as it related to a 1993 psychiatric evaluation, prosecutors presented enough evidence to the trial jury to uphold his conviction and sentence even if the evaluation had not occurred. 


The attorney general's office has a deadline of Monday to file a response to Crawford's petition. 


In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape, with a notice he planned to pursue an insanity defense. 


Four days before his trial, Ray was abducted from her parents' home. 


It was after the arrest for Ray's death that a judge ordered the mental examination. 


Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges and sentenced to 66 years in prison. 


During his trial for Ray's death, psychiatrists differed on Crawford's mental condition. Court documents show prosecutors used results of the 1993 examination, which found Crawford mentally competent, to attack Crawford's insanity defense in the capital murder case. Ultimately Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death. 


The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in 1998 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case that year.