NEW ALBANY • A circuit court judge has ruled that a Pontotoc County man on Mississippi's death row for the last 8 years can waive all future appeals and ask the state to execute him.
In a six-page order filed Thursday afternoon in Union County Circuit Court, Judge Kent Smith said David Neal Cox, 50, is "competent to terminate litigation and waive all appeals" and that his request was "knowingly and voluntarily given."
It will now be up to the state to set a date for Cox's execution.
In 2012, Cox pleaded guilty to capital murder for the May 2010 fatal shooting of his wife, Kim Kirk Cox, and was sentenced to death. Cox also received another 185 years for seven other felonies, ranging from kidnapping to sexual assault to shooting into a occupied dwelling. Circuit Court Judge John Gregory set the execution date for Nov. 26, 2012.
But the automatic appeal process delayed that date indefinitely.
In 2015, Cox appealed the death sentence citing a long list of reasons, including the venue should have been changed, the jury pool was tainted with people who knew the victim, the jury was improperly advised how to consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and whether the death penalty is constitutional.
At some point, Cox gave up on the appeals. In a handwritten letter to the judge, the district attorney, and his lawyer dated July 2018, Cox admitted that he premeditatedly killed his wife and claimed he would do it again if given the opportunity.
Later the same year, Cox began petitioning the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow him fire his attorneys, waive all appeals and proceed with execution. Before the state could grant his wishes, the high court said the lower court should hold a competency hearing.
That hearing, held in February, included testimony from Cox, family and friends, as well as two mental health experts.
"Cox addressed the court throughout the hearing," Judge Smith wrote. "He was concise, consistent and unwavering in relaying his desire to abandon his post-conviction litigation, waive all appeals and his reasons therefor."
The judge said he studied Cox's demeanor, actions and reactions throughout the hearing. He felt that Cox understood the seriousness and consequences of his requests
"Cox's decision to terminate litigation is based on his understanding that he is guilty of capital murder, his acceptance of the jury's findings, his acceptance of the judge's sentence, his remorse for the victim's family and his children, and his religious beliefs," Smith wrote. "Cox's decision to waive appeals does not come two months or two years after conviction: He has made this decision after 10 years of incarceration and navigating the appellate process."
Following the competency hearing, but before the ruling Thursday, Cox renewed his efforts by filing handwritten motions to the Mississippi Supreme Court asking them to move forward with his requests.