U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear petition of man convicted in Jackson County double murder

James Paul Dahl (MDOC photo)
James Paul Dahl (MDOC photo)

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a post-conviction petition from a Mississippi man convicted in 2005 in a double homicide in Jackson County.

The Supreme Court let stand Monday, without comment, the dismissal of the petition filed by James Paul Dahl. Dahl’s arguments for seeking approval for a post-conviction appeal were denied by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January.

Dahl was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the 2003 deaths of Harold Neal and Sheryl Sellers. He was sentenced to life without parole on both counts.

The bodies of Neal and Sellers were found near a houseboat rented by James Hogancamp, who pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the case.

Hogancamp testified he and Dahl planned to kill Neal to settle a drug debt.

Hogancamp testified that he and Dahl planned to kill Neal to settle a drug debt and steal crack cocaine.

Dahl testified he felt trapped into helping his friend, Hogancamp, conceal the slaying. Dahl said he feared Hogancamp would kill him and his family. Dahl denied taking part in the murders.

Prosecutors said Dahl and Hogancamp covered the bodies with debris on a marshy island near the houseboat. The decomposing bodies were discovered by police 14 days after the murders.

Dahl argued in his petition that his attorney should have done a better job.

Specifically, Dahl pointed to his attorney’s failure to move for a mistrial on the grounds that the jury deliberated as Hurricane Katrina was churning toward the Mississippi coast. Court records show Dahl was convicted and sentenced on Aug. 26, 2005, three days before Katrina came ashore.

The 5th Circuit panel said Dahl failed to show how a change in his lawyer’s courtroom strategy would have resulted in a different jury verdict.