Attorney general seeks dismissal of Mississippi death row inmate's appeal of rape conviction

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JACKSON, Mississippi — The attorney general's office is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to throw out a death row inmate's appeal of his 1994 rape conviction.

Charles Ray Crawford, 48, is on death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate community in Tippah County.

In his appeal, Crawford says he received ineffective counsel to defend himself against the rape charges, which were used by prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Few details of the rape conviction are discussed in earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

The attorney general argues in documents filed Monday that Crawford got a fair trial and that if there was any error, it was Crawford's for waiting 20 years to file an appeal.

"The delay in Crawford appealing this particular conviction rests solely at the feet of he and his various attorneys," Special Assistant Attorney General Stephanie B. Wood said. "There is no case law which establishes that this case should be reversed and remanded solely based on the delay. No reversible errors were committed during the trial."

Crawford argues that the 1994 rape conviction should be tossed out because he received poor legal representation at his trial. The result of the appeal could mean the difference between life and death for Crawford.

Crawford was arrested in 1992 and accused of rape and aggravated assault. While free on bond, he was arrested on murder charges in the death of a young woman. He was convicted of rape in 1993 and sentenced to 66 years in prison. He was then found guilty of murder in 1994 and sentenced to death. Prosecutors had argued for the death penalty, saying it was justified because Crawford's past as a rapist constituted an aggravated factor and called for the harshest of punishments.

Glenn Swartzfager, Crawford's lawyer, has argued there were numerous errors in Crawford's rape trial including poor performance by the defense, prosecutorial misconduct, and questionable rulings and jury instructions from the trial judge.

"A more error-ridden case may never have come before this court," Swartzfager wrote in the brief to the Supreme Court.

"Mr. Crawford is not asserting the right to a perfect trial, though the trial he received was far from perfect, but he is asserting his right to a trial which had some chance of providing the reliability demanded by the United States and Mississippi constitutions," Swartzfager wrote.

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