Death row inmate seeks new arguments before court

By Jack Elliott Jr.
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — 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 argue 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.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June upheld a 2012 decision.

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.