Miss. death sentence overturned, mental evaluation ordered

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2015 5:54 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death penalty of Erik Wayne Hollie, who pleaded guilty to killing a pawn shop owner and claiming God had led him to the shop.

Justices on Thursday threw out Hollie's guilty pleas, convictions and sentences, and ordered a lower court to hold a mental evaluation for him.

State prosecutors have two weeks to ask justices to reconsider that decision. Hollie, now 30, will remain in custody while awaiting either reconsideration by the Supreme Court or a mental evaluation by a lower court, said André de Gruy of the Office of Capital Defense Counsel, which is representing Hollie.

Hollie is currently in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, about 130 miles north of Jackson, but would be moved to the Copiah County jail to await a mental evaluation, de Gruy said.

Court records show that in September 2009, Hollie turned himself in to authorities and confessed to robbing a gas-station attendant at knifepoint after an argument about religion, and to shooting 54-year-old pawn shop owner Denmon Ward to death two days later.

"Once in custody, Hollie confessed to killing Ward," the Supreme Court wrote. "He said he did not know why he did it, but that he was led to the pawn shop by 'the Lord,' and that Ward died because he did not follow 'the Lord.'"

A judge accepted Hollie's guilty plea to both crimes before a mental evaluation was conducted.

Records show Hollie put on no defense during sentencing in 2010, but jurors received a one-sentence statement from him: "I ask that you let the Lord deal with me and sentence me to death."