In brief: November 2021

Updates from Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Utah.

In Mississippi, corrections officials are preparing for their first execution since 2012, the Clarion Ledger reports. David Cox is scheduled to be executed next Wednesday for the 2010 murder of his wife Kim. Cox pleaded guilty to the murder, as well as sexual battery, kidnapping and other crimes, according to the paper. In August 2018, he wrote to the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice “saying he wanted to fire his lawyers, relinquish all appeals and have the state Supreme Court set his execution date.” Cox’s lawyers have argued he is mentally ill and not competent to waive his appeals. 

In Tennessee, the supreme court set execution dates for two men whose previous dates were canceled because of the pandemic, the Nashville Scene reports. Oscar Smith, sentenced to death for the killing of his estranged wife Judy Smith and her two sons, Chad and Jason Burnett in 1989, is scheduled to die on April 21. And Harold Nichols, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 21-year-old Karen Pulley during a break-in in 1990, is scheduled to be executed on June 9.

In Florida, 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018, and will now face the sentencing phase of his trial in January, NPR reports.  His lawyers are asking that he be sentenced to 17 life sentences instead of to death. 

In Utah, Davis County DA Troy Rawlings created a conviction integrity unit recently that differs from many other CIUs in that it includes criminal justice reform advocates, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. In addition to the usual team of legal professionals, Rawlings has included advocates from the ACLU of Utah and the Libertas Institute in the nine-member panel. There are three other counties in Utah that have CIUs.

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