1974 killer of jailer up for parole

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arthur L. Stevenson, in custody since 1974 for the stabbing death of a Warren County jailer, is under consideration for release by the Mississippi State Parole Board, its chairman said Tuesday.

Stevenson is serving a life sentence imposed in 1997 for killing A.H. “Holly” Koerper. Now 58, Stevenson was a jail trusty serving a one-year sentence for robbery when he stabbed Koerper 26 times with a butcher knife. He and a female prisoner fled the jail but were captured at a house on Farmer Street.

Three trials were held in the case. An indictment was issued within days of the slaying. The first trial, held within weeks, ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. A second trial, also held that summer, resulted in a conviction and a sentence of death in the gas chamber. The state Supreme Court reversed that verdict on grounds that the trial should have been held outside Warren County to ensure fairness.

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A third trial, held in Lee County, resulted in a second conviction and a second reversal by the Supreme Court. Then, before a 1978 trial in Sharkey County, Stevenson entered a guilty plea and received a life term while agreeing not to seek parole. However, in the mid-1990s, the Supreme Court threw out the plea because a life-without-parole sentence didn’t exist at the time. A fourth conviction in 1997, handed down in Warren County but with jurors from Lincoln County, resulted in a life sentence, enabling the parole board to consider whether he should be freed.

The five members of the parole board are appointed by the governor. Sessions are closed to the public and held Tuesdays through Thursdays each week, sometimes totaling hundreds of inmate files, said chairman Shannon Warnock.

“There’s a very good chance he’ll come up this week,” she added.

Lists of prisoners eligible for parole are sent to the board monthly, though mere eligibility does not guarantee a release. Criminal history and date of the offense are taken into account, as well as factors that include severity, psychological and psychiatric history, amount of time served and crimes committed while incarcerated, among others.

Victims and family members of victims, who must fill out name-and-address forms with the board to be notified of an inmate’s scheduled hearing, are allowed to make impact statements. Results of reviews are confidential, with victims and family members notified by mail within 10 days if a prisoner is paroled, Warnock said.

Though variable on a case-by-case basis, parolees submit to random drug and alcohol testing, Warnock said.

Under Mississippi law then and now, a death sentence can be imposed for killing a law enforcement officer and jailers are considered law enforcement officers. Koerper, who was 72, was on duty alone on the morning of July 6, a Saturday, in the office of the jail as it existed before the large annex was completed. Stevenson reportedly got the knife from the kitchen.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com.