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Death row inmate to appeal in state court



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Lisa Jo Chamberlin, the only woman on Mississippi death row, will challenge her conviction in state court following a June 1 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves.

In March of 2004, Chamberlin and her then-boyfriend Roger Gillett brutally murdered Vernon Hulett, 34, and Linda Heintzelman, 37, in Hattiesburg.  The couple dismembered the bodies, placed them in a freezer and transported them to an abandoned farm owned by Gillett’s grandfather in Kansas.

Gillett is serving life without the possibility of parole after his death sentence was overturned. Chamberlin filed for an appeal in 2008, but the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld both her verdict and the sentence of death.

In her latest petition, Chamberlin cites abuse from Gillett and the influence of drugs as reasons for dismissal.  She says she was high on methamphetamine when she gave statements to investigators, statements that were entered into evidence in her trial. Also submitted was an affidavit by psychologist Beverly Smallwood, who conducted a pre-trial examination of Chamberlin.

“I recognize that my efforts were insufficient and that the services of a mitigation investigator would have yielded much additional and important information on which to base my assessment and testimony,” Smallwood said in the affidavit.

In his June 1 ruling, Judge Reeves wrote, “Chamberlin’s ineffectiveness claims will be dependent, at least in part, on the facts, and the Mississippi Supreme Court has demonstrated a willingness to review such claims when they return from this Court.”

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