By The Associated Press
JACKSON - The Mississippi Supreme Court has yet to rule on Attorney General Jim Hood's motion to set an execution date for Frederick Bell, making it unlikely it will occur this year.
Bell's attorneys filed their response to Hood's motion on Dec. 10. The Supreme Court is on its Christmas-New Year's holiday break.
Hood petitioned the Supreme Court earlier this month to set Bell's execution for Dec. 29. Hood's motion came after the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 29 declined to hear an appeal from Bell.
Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for Hood's office, said the attorney general is awaiting a court decision.
Mississippi Department of Corrections officials have repeatedly said they would be ready for any execution on short notice.
Bell, now 39, was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to death. He and Anthony Joe Doss were convicted of killing Bert Bell, no relation, on May 6, 1991, during an armed robbery of Sparks Stop-N-Shop in Grenada County.
Doss also was sentenced to death.
Three Mississippi death row inmates were executed in 2010. MDOC records show the last time the state executed more than two inmates in one year was 1961, when five men were put to death.
Paul Everette Woodward and Gerald James Holland were executed in May. Joseph Daniel Burns was executed in June.
The Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel, which is defending Bell, also filed a petition for post-conviction relief to the Mississippi court in November. Hood's office replied on Dec. 14.
"The petition raises several complex legal claims, including a very serious claim regarding Mr. Bell's innocence," Glenn Swartzfager, director of the post-conviction office, told The Clarion-Ledger.
Bell's petition focuses on the competency of his public defender. It also alleges Bell may be mentally retarded and was abused as a child.