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franklin county times

Storm of motions to stop execution

By By Suzanne Monk / assistant managing editor
July 14, 2002
Barring a last-minute reprieve, the state of Mississippi will execute Tracy Alan Hansen by lethal injection Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Hansen was convicted in 1987 of the murder of Trooper Bruce Ladner of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Ladner was shot after he pulled Hansen over for speeding on Interstate 10. The jury returned a death sentence. A girlfriend in the car was sentenced to life in prison.
Since the state announced the execution, a flurry of motions to stop it temporarily or permanently have been filed by Hansen's attorney, Merrida Coxwell of Jackson. At one point last week, Hansen even wrote one and filed it himself with the Mississippi Supreme Court.
I have a file of all the motions on my desk. It's about 2 inches think.
The latest motion came on Friday and was filed in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. This one, written by another attorney, says Hansen should not be executed because he is needed to testify in a lawsuit filed by six other death row prisoners.
The suit claims that the prisoners' constitutional rights were violated by jailers at Parchman Penitentiary. Jailers allegedly deprived them of basic personal hygiene needs and adequate shelter, as well as medical, mental and dental treatment.
Tracy Hansen is a material witness in this action and his testimony cannot be replaced,'' the motion reads. He has compelling testimony to offer as to each of the seven categories of unconstitutional conditions identified by plaintiffs in their complaint.''
If this is what Hansen's hopes have come down to, I think we are near the end.
The only motion for stay of execution I have not seen and expected to is the one that says, "You can't execute him because he's retarded." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in mid-June that it is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people.
In a motion filed June 25, Coxwell referred to Hansen as "borderline mentally retarded," but did not use this assessment as a major thrust of his arguments. Whether that motion is still to come, or whether there is some legal obstacle to filing it, I do not know.
Quick takes:
The Mississippi Supreme Court has set a deadline for any further appeals in Hansen's case Monday at 9 a.m. Last-minute death row appeals can be filed in many courts, however. Other possibilities include courts that have already refused to consider earlier motions including U.S. District Court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has received clemency requests. He met Friday with Bishop William Houck of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, who wants the governor to commute Hansen's sentence to life in prison. The governor also met with Coxwell. Musgrove's spokesman said he will announce his decision on clemency Tuesday.
Musgrove has said publicly that he supports the death penalty.
The victim's brother, Kirk Ladner, says vengeance is not the point: I've had people ask me: Can you forgive him?' My answer to that is I think I can forgive his soul but his worldly body needs to take punishment. We, as a family, have done a lot of soul-searching. As far as the Christian aspects of our life, we feel like this execution is justified.''
Two of the 67 prisoners on Mississippi's death row were convicted and sentenced in Lauderdale County. Ronnie Lee Conner was convicted in July 1990, Ronald Chris Foster in January 1991. You can see their pictures at www.mdoc.state.ms.us, and read more about them this week in The Meridian Star.