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Mississippi set to execute man for murder of four people

BILOXI, Miss (Reuters) - Mississippi is set to execute later on Tuesday a man convicted in 1999 of slaying four people, the first inmate in the state to be put to death using a new drug as part of the lethal injection.

Benny Joe Stevens is scheduled to be executed shortly after 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

He will be executed using the drug pentobarbital, a sedative often used to euthanize animals, because of a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental. Several states have switched to pentobarbital because of the shortage.

Hood said attorneys for three death row inmates, including Benny Joe Stevens, have tried to slow the executions by arguing that the Mississippi Department of Corrections failed to properly publicize as required by law its switch to a new lethal injection. The appeals were denied by the courts.

There are 59 inmates on death row in Mississippi, according to state prison records.

The attorney general also has requested execution dates for Robert Simon Jr., who was sentenced to die for the 1990 killing of Carl and Bobbie Jo Parker and their 12-year-old son, and for Gregory and Rodney Gray, convicted of killing a 79-year-old woman in 1994. Gray is scheduled to be executed on May 17 and Simon for May 24.

(Reporting by Leigh Coleman; Editing by Greg McCune)