- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

JACKS0N, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi death row inmate has lost his appeal of a rape conviction that was later used to support a capital murder conviction in a separate case.

The Mississippi Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision Thursday, denied arguments from Charles Ray Crawford that his attorney in the rape case provided faulty legal representation at his 1994 rape trial. The court also rejected Crawford’s argument that his trial lawyer failed to challenge jury instructions and failed to object to inadmissible testimony and prejudicial prosecutorial comments.

Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman, one of four dissenting justices in the case, said there were enough errors by Crawford’s trial attorney to justify a new trial in the case.

Justice Randy Pierce, writing for the majority, said Crawford’s conflict with his attorney was not such that denied him a fair trial on the rape charge.

Crawford, now 49, is on death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate (kuh-LEE-be-ut) community in Tippah County. Crawford argued he received ineffective defense counsel to fight the rape charge, which was later used by prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued Crawford got a fair trial and there no errors by trial counsel.

Crawford’s attorneys had hoped that overturning the rape conviction would get Crawford off death row where he now resides on the unrelated capital murder conviction.

Attorney General Jim Hood can now petition the Supreme Court to set an execution date.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. Four days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray, a student at Northeast Mississippi Community College, was abducted from her parents’ home.

After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to Ray’s body, buried in leaves in a wooded area.

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