Hutto could get new attorneys to challenge capital murder conviction

James Hutto
James Hutto(MDOC)
Published: Apr. 30, 2022 at 6:21 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A man convicted of killing an 81-year-old woman he befriended at a Clinton health club could soon have new representation.

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently remanded James Hutto’s request to have new attorneys appointed in his efforts to seek post-conviction relief to the Hinds County Circuit Court.

The move gives Hutto a pathway to have the attorneys of his choice appointed to file a petition to have his death sentence conviction appealed.

Hutto was sentenced to death in 2013 for the 2010 murder of 81-year-old Ethel Simpson of Clinton.

Hutto had befriended Simpson at the Baptist Healthplex. He told her he had been battling cancer and had no family. Simpson was last seen with Hutto at a Vicksburg casino.

He was later arrested in Alabama driving Simpson’s Mercedes. Simpson’s body, meanwhile, was found on a hog farm in Edwards. She had been beaten to death.

The high court upheld Hutto’s death sentence and conviction in 2017.

In April, the Supreme Court remanded Huttos’ request for new representation to circuit court, the same court where he was convicted years ago.

According to the order, Hutto is to be transported to the court and asked whether he wants to proceed with a successive petition.

If so, the circuit court “shall appoint Caroline K. Ivanov and Elizabeth Franklin-Best, or such other counsel as the trial court deems appropriate” to pursue relief.

Ivanov and Franklin-Best also represent Hutto in a federal case. That case has been stayed so options on the state level can be exhausted, court records indicate.

The court also ruled that if Hutto agrees, his petition must be filed with the Supreme Court within 60 days of the circuit court’s order. The state then has 30 days to file a response.

The state was opposed to the request, in part, because “there is no indication Hutto wants to sue the state for a second time in civil action.”

Attorneys for the state point to Hutto’s previous actions. The trial court previously did not make a determination on whether Hutto desired counsel to seek post-conviction relief because Hutto would not cooperate with the court.

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