STARKVILLE, Miss (Reuters) - A Mississippi man convicted of murdering two people during convenience store robberies was executed on Wednesday by lethal injection, becoming the first person to be put to death in the state this year, a corrections official said.
Court records show that Turner, 38, and an accomplice who later received a life term were drinking beer and smoking marijuana in Carroll County in December 1995, when they decided to rob convenience stores. Two people were killed.
After the murders, the two men shared $400 in stolen cash, ate cinnamon rolls and shrimp, and went to sleep at Turner's home.
Turner's attorney, Jim Craig of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, has argued that important information relating to Turner's mental health wasn't presented during his trial, and that Turner had a "long and extensive" history of mental illness.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves had ordered the execution postponed on Monday until at least February 20 to allow attorneys to argue whether the state had improperly kept him from getting a psychiatric evaluation.
Richard Bourke, director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, said the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans overstretched its authority in overturning the temporary restraining order.
"Two judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have announced a new rule granting themselves the power that Congress did not intend for them to have," Bourke said in a statement. "This is the worst kind of judicial activism."
After the 1995 killings, police investigators suspected Turner's involvement in the crimes after witnesses said one of the perpetrators wore a towel around his head. Turner regularly wore a towel on his head to hide a facial disfigurement that resulted from a suicide attempt.
After police discovered guns used in the crimes and a hockey mask, Paul M. Stewart confessed and received two consecutive life sentences. He testified against Turner in court.