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State of Mississippi Executes Murderer, Rapist Who Dropped All Appeals

mugshot of David Neal Cox
The State of Mississippi executed David Neal Cox, 50, at 6:12 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2021, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for killing his estranged wife, Kim Cox, in Sherman, Miss., in April 2010. Courtesy MDOC

The State of Mississippi executed David Neal Cox, 50, at 6:12 p.m. tonight at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for killing his estranged wife, Kim Cox, in Sherman, Miss., in April 2010.  It was the first Mississippi execution since 2012.

Cox separated from his wife in 2009 after he was accused of sexually assaulting her daughter. Cox, when released on bond in April 2010, purchased a handgun and returned to take Kim Cox and two of her children hostage, the Clarion Ledger reports, then killing his wife. He then sexually assaulted his stepdaughter in front of his wife as she died, after he taunted her father over the phone.

In 2018 Cox filed several motions to dismiss his representation and all his appeals, stating that he was of “very sound mind and will” and “totally guilty” of killing his estranged wife in his Nov. 5, 2018, motion, which Chief Justice Randolph cited in the April 1, 2021 Mississippi Supreme Court decision.

“I seek to bring closure to my victims & family & all I hurt whether it be emotionally, phsyikally (sic) or both, by the speedy execution of my guilty body,” Cox wrote in his Nov. 5, 2018, letter. 

Earlier that year, Cox wasn’t repentant at all. “If I had my perfect way & will about it, Id ever so gladly dig my dead sarkastic (sic) wife up of in (sic) whom I very happily & premeditatedly slaughtered on 5-14- 2010—and with eager pleasure kill the fat heathern hore (sic) agan (sic),” Cox wrote to the court in July 2018.

Benny Kirk, Kim Cox’s father, helped raise Kim’s children, now all adults, after her death in 2010 and supports his execution now for murdering his daughter and sexually assaulting her daughter.

“I knew that the only way that he was not going to get out and kill anybody else would be death row,” Kirk told the Clarion Ledger. 

‘They Go to Very Dark Places’

Cox’s scheduled execution brought back tough memories for MacArthur Justice Center Director Cliff Johnson, as he recalled a similar case of a man he represented.

Bobby Wilcher was executed in October 2006 after dropping all of his appeals and requesting an execution date. Johnson attended his client’s execution.

“You had a situation where a person is pursuing all available legal remedies to avoid being executed and then—to the surprise of that person’s lawyers and contrary to the position they’ve been taking previously—they decide that they’ve just had enough, and they want that they don’t want to fight any longer,” Johnson told the Mississippi Free Press. 

Attorney Cliff Johnson said it is unusual for prisoners on death row to give up and waive all appeals as David Neal Cox and his client Bobby Wilcher did. But they can go to very dark places awaiting execution, he said. Courtesy Cliff Johnson

“There are times for many of the people on death row that they go to very dark places, and they feel like giving up. Everybody who’s ever represented someone on death row has gone through those times with their clients,” Johnson said. 

“Very few however, take the ultimate step of waiving their appeal and asking that an execution date be set.”

Johnson pointed out the irony of “pro-life” leaders supporting executions.

“Exactly two weeks from today, Attorney General Fitch’s office will stand before the United States Supreme Court and argue that all life is sacred,” Johnson said, referring to the upcoming review of Mississippi’s abortion restrictions.

 “That same attorney general’s office that has sought and will carry out the execution of David Cox.” 

Parchman: ‘Torturous and Horrible’

Death penalty opponent and founding president of Mississippi Rising Coalition Lea Campbell spoke at the state capitol in Jackson yesterday in opposition to the state resuming executions, which have not been preformed in Mississippi since 2012.

At least 186 people have been exonerated while on death row in the United States since 1973, the Death Penalty Information Center database shows.

“David Cox is not one of those cases, but by resuming executions today with the execution of David Cox, it brings us one step closer to the risk of executing an innocent person,” Campbell told the Mississippi Free Press. 

That means for about every eight inmates that have been executed in the United States, one of their peers has been found innocent and released, in the time since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 Gregg v. Georgia after its ban in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case. 

“They justify (abortion bans) by saying that a fetus is an innocent life—but someone who’s been sentenced to death has committed a crime, … but 186 people were scheduled to die by state santioned murder, and they were found to be innocent,” the Gulf Coast woman said.

Campbell participated in a Zoom call yesterday that included Death Penalty Action, People’s Advocacy Institute, three pastors—one Lutheran, one BaptistCox’s own religious guide—and some of Cox’s former lawyers. They made it clear that Cox has waived his right to appeals and that he essentially was ready to die, Campbell recounted from the comments. 

“The conditions in Parchman are notoriously just torturous and horrible. He’s bitten by rats daily, has no clean water to drink, the water is brown,” Campbell said. She was echoing the words of Death Penalty Action organizer Abraham Bonowitz at the capitol on Tuesday and referencing the 2019 release of photos from inside of the prison

“So he’s choosing to escape that by dying, and that’s his choice, and he’s being assisted by the State,” Campbell said. 

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