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Judge says Mississippi death row inmate may give up appeals

NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) — A man on Mississippi’s death row who says he killed his wife can give up all future appeals and request an execution date, a judge has ruled.

David Neal Cox, 50, is “competent to terminate litigation and waive all appeals” and his request to do so was “knowingly and voluntarily given,” Union County Circuit Judge Kent Smith wrote in the decision issued Thursday, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

It will be up to the state to set a date for Cox’s execution.

In 2012, Cox pleaded guilty to capital murder for the May 2010 shooting death of his wife, Kim Kirk Cox. In addition to the death sentence, Cox received 185 years for seven other felonies, including kidnapping and sexual assault.

Circuit Court Judge John Gregory set a November 2012 execution date, but automatic appeals delayed that.

In 2015, Cox appealed the death sentence citing a long list of reasons, including arguments that the trial should have been moved and the jury pool was tainted with people who knew the victim.

In a July 2018 handwritten letter to the judge, the district attorney and his lawyer, Cox acknowledged killing his wife and claimed he would do it again if given the chance.

Later in 2018, Cox began petitioning the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow him to fire his attorneys, waive all appeals and proceed with execution. Justices said a circuit judge should hold a competency hearing.

That hearing in February included testimony from Cox, family, friends and two mental health experts. Smith wrote that Cox was “concise, consistent and unwavering in relaying his desire to abandon his post-conviction litigation, waive all appeals and his reasons therefor.”

The judge said he studied Cox’s demeanor, actions and reactions throughout the hearing.

“Cox’s decision to terminate litigation is based on his understanding that he is guilty of capital murder, his acceptance of the jury’s findings, his acceptance of the judge’s sentence, his remorse for the victim’s family and his children, and his religious beliefs,” Smith wrote. “Cox’s decision to waive appeals does not come two months or two years after conviction: He has made this decision after 10 years of incarceration and navigating the appellate process.”

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