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A Mississippi man who was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday was granted a last minute stay. Robert Simon, Jr., who was convicted of killing a family of four in 1990, received a stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, according to a court document.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections said it was waiting for the court’s opinion, and was ready to carry out the orders of the court. The lethal injection was scheduled for 6PM local time and would have been the state’s third execution this month. Simon and an accomplice robbed and killed a couple and their two children in Marks, Mississippi in February of 1990. Corrections official say that the pair shot all four family members and cut off the husband’s ring finger in order to steal his wedding band. The house was set on fire with all the bodies inside. A passing motorist saw the flames from the house and alerted authorities.
Simon had confessed to the killings following his arrest. He was found guilty of all murders and received three death sentences and one life sentence. His accomplice, Anthony Carr, also was convicted of four counts of capital murder and is currently on death row.
Judge Grady Jolly of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the execution was halted to allow Simon time to prove mental incompetence. The panel determined that medical records including sworn affidavits of Simon’s lawyers and from a clinical neuropsychologist raised questions if Simon suffered a neurological injury when he fell in prison back in January. Jolly, in a document released Wednesday, said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that inmates cannot be executed unless, at the time of execution, they are aware of the crime, aware of the fact that they are about to be executed, and aware of the reason for execution.
“These medical records and affidavits, made under oath, raise substantial questions as to whether Simon had a neurological injury in January 2011 at the prison, which injury has so affected him, either temporarily or permanently, that he neither understands that he committed a crime nor that he is about to be executed,” Jolly wrote.
“Although this evidence has been presented, this panel has no basis to consider whether his claim has any merit, whether it is believable or unbelievable. Because there is no time for such a hearing before the date and time of execution, a temporary stay of his execution is necessary in order to answer these questions.”
Eighteen people have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.