Federal court hearing set in case that could determine whether Loden execution will go forward

In this May 25, 2022, photo released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections is Thomas...
In this May 25, 2022, photo released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections is Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. The Mississippi attorney general's office is asking the state to set an execution date for Loden, now 58. The former U.S. Marine Corps recruiter was convicted in the 2000 rape and killing of a 16-year-old waitress, and has been on death row since 2001, when he pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and four counts of sexual battery.(Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP)
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:52 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The fate of a man convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old waitress more than 20 years ago is now in the hands of the federal court.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate set a hearing for Monday, November 28, to determine whether the execution of Thomas Edwin Loden Jr., should go forward.

The order comes just days after the Mississippi Supreme Court set Loden’s execution date for December 14, at the behest of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office.

It also comes more than a month after Loden filed a motion in District Court asking for it to order Fitch’s motion seeking an execution date to be withdrawn and for it to enjoin the state court from executing any plaintiffs in a 2015 case that Loden was a party of.

“This hearing is the parties’ opportunity to present supplemental argument and/or evidence on the motion,” Wingate wrote.

Loden was one of several death row inmates that signed on to a federal compliant in 2015 regarding the state’s lethal injection protocols.

According to the compliant, the inmates claimed that the state intended to execute plaintiffs using “compounded drugs that may be counterfeit, expired, contaminated, and/or sub-potent, creating a substantial risk of serious harm.”

They went on to state that the compounded drugs had not been tested or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that the drugs were being compounded on the grounds of Parchman, “where there is no pharmacy suitable for compounding sterile drugs.”

In a 2017 complaint, Loden raised concerns that one of the drugs used to put inmates, midazolam, saying that it would be incapable of making him unconscious, as required under state statute.

It was not known if MDOC still used that drug in its three-drug injection process.

In his November 21 order, Wingate is directing parties to address several questions, including whether his claims that the state’s failure to disclose information about the method of execution violates his right to due process. The judge also is asking the state method it plans to use on Loden, and, if it’s lethal injection, what are the protocols. Wingate also wants to know whether recent changes in state statute make any of Loden’s claims moot.

The news comes as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey asks her state to pause future executions after several failed attempts to put death row inmates to death.

In one such case, Associated Press reported that prison staff called off the execution of one man after being unable to find “suitable vein to inject the lethal drugs.”

Exactly how Loden will be executed has not been determined. This year, state lawmakers amended state law to give the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the deputy commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration the discretion to determine an inmate’s manner of death.

The four methods allowed include intravenous injection, nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution or firing squad, according to a copy of the statute found at CaseText.com.

Prior to that amendment, death prisoners could determine what method would be used in their executions, according to Deathpenaltyinfo.org.

The bill authorizing the change amended state execution law in other ways as well, including requiring the execution team to have medical personnel, who provide direct support for the administration of lethal chemicals. Previously, the statute did not require medical personnel to be part of team administering the injections.

Loden has been on death row since 2001, after he pleaded guilty to capital murder and four counts of sexual battery against Leesa Marie Gray. Gray, who was a teen at the time, disappeared after leaving her family’s northern Itawamba County restaurant. Her body was found the following day in Loden’s van.

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