More than 11 years after the murder of Kim Cox by her husband, the State of Mississippi has set a date for the execution of David Neal Cox.

Mississippi executed six people in 2012, but it has executed no one since. November 2021 may see the resumption of the practice.

When Will David Neal Cox Be Executed?

On Thursday, Oct. 21, the Mississippi Supreme Court announced that Cox will be executed for the death of his wife, Kim, on Nov. 17.

David Neal Cox shot Kim twice in May 2010, then sexually assaulted his stepdaughter (the murder victim’s daughter) while Kim was dying. Cox has pleaded guilty.

The Mississippi Corrections Commissioner, Burl Cain, says that prison employees will do once-a-week rehearsals to ensure that they get the execution protocol right.

The protocol is very detailed, he said: about 20 pages long.

Executions proceed in Mississippi by lethal injection drugs. The state has reportedly been having difficulty obtaining such drugs, but it has them now, Cain said.

“I’m not supposed to talk about the drugs too much,” he added. Pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and Europe have been reluctant to provide such drugs for this purpose, given the political and moral controversies that surround the death penalty.

Mississippi remains the defendant in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, arguing that the lethal injection protocol is cruel and inhumane.

Why is the Mississippi Man Being Executed?

A jury determined that David Neal Cox will be executed.

Cox has done a good deal to advance that cause by his repeated confessions and refusal to appeal.

He pleaded guilty not only to the murder but to seven other crimes, without making any bargain with prosecutors that would have taken death off the table.

Juries are instructed to consider both aggravating and mitigating factors when considering whether a defendant, already found guilty of a capital offense, should be put to death.

One aggravating factor, under Mississippi law, is a murder “by any person engaged in the commission of the crime of rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, robbery, sexual battery, unnatural intercourse with any child under the age of twelve (12), or nonconsensual unnatural intercourse.” David Neal Cox did not merely plead guilty to the murder, he effectively pleaded guilty to the necessary aggravation, as well.

In April 2021, Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith ruled that Cox, 50, is mentally competent to waive his appeals. The Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel appealed Smith’s ruling. Justices of the state supreme court, in setting the execution date on Thursday, affirmed Judge Smith’s decision and denied the appeal.

Cox was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His attorneys argued that he was not competent to waive his appeals, according to his attorneys, and that it would be unconstitutional for the state to execute him. He has fired his attorneys.

The mental condition of the person convicted of a capital offense, and the broad question of whether it is constitutional to executie someone with a mental defect, has long been one of the chief bones of contention in the jurisprudence of capital punishment.

The line of cases on this subject is distinct from the doctrines involving the mental state of the defendant at the time of the homicide, or the mental condition of the defendant at the time of trial.

In a 1986 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Lewis Powell laid out a test for prohibiting the execution of a person who may be considered incompetent. Justice Powell stated the “Eighth Amendment [regarding cruel and unusual punishment] forbids the execution only of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer or why they are about to suffer it.”

This is the test that, in the view of the Mississippi high court, David Neal Cox does not meet.