22 March 2018 :
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has reinstated 9-5 the death sentence of Lisa Jo Chamberlin, Mississippi's only female death row inmate. The full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the exception of Judge James Graves who recused himself, reviewed the judge's ruling and a ruling by a 3-judge panel of the court that voted 2-1 to affirm the ruling. On a motion by the Mississippi attorney general's office, the 5th Circuit agreed to hear the case. Special Assistant Attorney General Cameron Benton argued the 2 U.S. Court of Appeals judges put together unimpressive statistics and an incomplete comparative analysis to find the existence of discrimination in the striking of 2 black prospective jurors. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ordered the state to grant Chamberlin a new trial within 4 months, saying prosecutors intentionally struck black potential jurors from her capital murder trial. Chamberlin is white. Chamberlin and her boyfriend, Roger Lee Gillett, were convicted of 2 counts of capital murder in the March 2004 slayings of Gillet's cousin, Vernon Hulett, 34, and Hulett's girlfriend, Linda Heintzelman, 37. Gillett and Chamberlin were living with Hulett and Heintzelman in Hattiesburg at the time of the slayings. Chamberlin, in a taped confession played at her trial, said the victims were killed because they wouldn't open a safe in Hulett's home. Chamberlain was sentenced to death row in 2006, and Gillett was sentenced in 2007. However, Gillett's death sentence was later overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The court said an escape couldn't be used as a crime of violence to support a death sentence. Chamberlin filed a post-conviction challenge to her conviction in 2011 in U.S. District Court after the state Supreme Court upheld her conviction and death sentence. One of the claims was that the prosecution improperly struck 7 African-Americans from serving on her jury. The prosecutor said he struck 12 potential jurors - 7 black and 5 white. He denied any effort to strike potential jurors based upon race.