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Mental issues raised as inmate set to die

Mental issues raised as inmate set to die

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By MICHAEL GRACZYK

Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE -- A condemned prisoner who volunteered for execution but in recent weeks changed his mind headed lost an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court that he hoped would spare him from a trip to the Texas death chamber Wednesday evening.

Danielle Simpson, 30, was set to die for the abduction-slaying of an 84-year-old east Texas woman who was weighted down with a cinder block and thrown into a river.

Simpson this year won approval from a federal court that he was competent to decide to drop his appeals. Then he reversed himself and allowed lawyers to try to save him from lethal injection.

He'd be the 22nd Texas prisoner to die this year.

Simpson told The Associated Press earlier this month from death row he was innocent, it wasn't his choice to volunteer for execution and Texas prisons were "pitiful."

He was condemned for the murder of Geraldine Davidson, a former school teacher and church organist abducted nearly 10 years ago during a burglary of her home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

Although three justices would have stopped the punishment, the high court refused his appeal less than 30 minutes before he could be taken to the death chamber.

Attorneys representing him argued to the federal courts Simpson is mentally impaired, incapable of deciding whether to drop his appeals and offered his repeated reversals as proof.

They also wanted permission to appeal a lower court's determination that Simpson is not mentally impaired and challenged the elimination of two black people from consideration to serve on Simpson's trial jury. Simpson is black. There were no blacks on the jury that convicted him and decided he should be put to death.

Simpson earlier sent a federal court a handwritten motion in which he said he was "tired of being in a institution that's unjust, degrading, and corrupted" and was ready to die.

A federal judge found Simpson had "a mental disease, disorder or defect" but was able to understand his legal position and competent to choose to die.

Evidence and testimony at Simpson's trial detailed Davidson's horrific death in January 2000.

She arrived at home and interrupted a burglary involving Simpson, then 20, his wife, Jennifer, 17, and a cousin, Edward McCoy, 13. Evidence showed Simpson, who lived nearby, had broken into her home at least two other times.

Testimony showed he held a knife to Davidson's throat and ordered her to surrender money from her purse. Davidson's mouth was duct taped, her hands tied behind her and her legs taped. A pillow case was pulled over her head and then he carried her over his shoulder outside and threw her in the trunk of her car.

Testimony showed the three drove around in her car, bought marijuana, tried to buy cocaine, then went about 10 miles out of town to visit a relative where Simpson opened the trunk and showed off their captive.

When Davidson asked for her medication. Simpson told her to "Shut up!" and slammed the trunk lid. They drove back to Palestine and showed off their captive to more friends while Simpson's wife made calls on Davidson's cell phone.

The trio was joined by Lionel Simpson, his 15-year-old brother. With Danielle Simpson driving, they went to a dead-end road, pulled the woman out, re-taped her arms and legs, beat her and tossed her back in the trunk. They went to a fast-food place to eat, then drove to the Neches River, threw her to the ground, kicked her in the face, tied one end of a rope around her legs and the other end to a cinder block.

A medical examiner testified Davidson was alive when she was thrown in the river.

Evidence showed Simpson later rented her car to friends in exchange for drugs. He was in the car when he was arrested.

A passing motorist spotted Davidson's body floating in the river.

Simpson contended neither he nor his brother was responsible for the slaying, which he blamed on his wife and cousin, who testified against him.

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