Case

Jordan v. Mississippi

Death Penalty

Richard Jordan was first convicted and sentenced to death for capital murder in 1976.  He has thus spent over 41 years incarcerated for the same crime.

The initial judgment against him was vacated because Mississippi followed a form of capital murder proceeding held invalid by the Supreme Court in 1976. He was convicted and sentenced to death again in 1977.  The Fifth Circuit vacated his sentence due to improper instructions on aggravating circumstances. He was sentenced to death again in 1983, but once again the State prevented him from having a constitutional proceeding because it refused to permit him to present evidence of his adaptability to prison.  In 1991, a Special Prosecutor agreed that Richard Jordan should receive a sentence of life without possibility of parole, citing Jordan’s exemplary prison behavior, military service, expressions of remorse, and efforts to contribute to society despite his incarceration.

The Mississippi Supreme Court subsequently determined that such sentence agreements were void because life without parole was not an available sentencing option under then-existing law.  Jordan sought to modify his sentence to one with parole, but the Mississippi Supreme Court simply vacated the sentence and returned Jordan to his pre-agreement status, thus freeing the State to seek the death penalty again.  Jordan was again sentenced to death in 1998.