Death Penalty and Death Row in USA

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Penalty in USA

Information about individuals executed July- 2003

     Lewis Eugene Gilbert, 2003-07-01, Oklahoma

In McAlester, an Ohio man was executed Tuesday for killing a security guard during a deadly multistate crime spree. Lewis Eugene Gilbert was pronounced dead at 7:11 p.m. after receiving a lethal mix of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Gilbert, of Newcomerstown, Ohio, had also been sentenced to death in Missouri for killing William and Flossie Brewer, and had confessed to killing Ruth Lucille Loader in Ohio, authorities said.

Ruddell's husband, Eddie Ruddell, said before the execution that he is still too upset to visit her grave.

The death penalty was the only appropriate punishment for Gilbert, he said. "I think it'll bring closure to the whole thing and Roxy will finally get the justice that she deserves," he said. "She was a warm, caring person, loved everybody, did anything for anyone that asked."
Ruddell said the crime has had a lasting impact. "It destroyed lives," he said. "It totally just destroyed lives."

Prosecutors in Gilbert's Oklahoma trial said he and Eric Elliot started the spree in Ohio, where they approached Loader's home. Gilbert and Elliot kicked in the back door and tied Loader up. They stole $40 and her car, then put her in the trunk, authorities said. They took her to the woods, where they shot her in the head 3 times. Her remains haven't been found.
Gilbert and Elliot then drove Loader's car to Missouri, where they approached the Brewers' home.

They knocked on the door and asked to use the telephone. They held the Brewers at gunpoint, marched them into the cellar and shot each of them in the head 3 times, authorities said. Ruddell and had gone fishing after her shift as a security guard at Lake Stanley Draper when Gilbert and Elliot approached her, intending to steal her pickup. They took her to a nearby wooded area and forced her to sit under a tree as they rummaged through her purse, took her keys and stole $2 or $3. Ruddell told the pair she wouldn't call police if they didn't hurt her, but Gilbert reportedly thought she was lying and grew angry, authorities said. Elliot tied Ruddell's hands and Gilbert shot her 3 times in the head and once in the back of the neck. Gilbert and Elliot were arrested in New Mexico, where they admitted to Ruddell's killing and confessed to the murders of Loader and the Brewers.

Elliot is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole. Gilbert's attorneys in Missouri worked until the last minute Tuesday trying to get the execution stayed. The U.S. Supreme Court returned a request for a stay of execution to a lower court for consideration. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied the request and it returned to the U.S. Supreme Court, which then rejected it. The execution was delayed for about an hour.

Gilbert's Oklahoma death sentence was base partly on evidence from the Missouri case.

Gilbert becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 65th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Gilbert becomes the 148th inmate executed in Oklahoma's history.

The state trails only Texas (305) and Virginia (88) in executions since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press, the Oklahoman & Rick Halperin)

     Hilton Lewis Crawford, 64, 2003-07-02, Texas

     Robert Don Duckett, 39, 2003-07-08, Oklahoma

In McAlester, a man who beat an Oklahoma City resident to death with an ashtray stand and fireplace poker died for the crime Tuesday in Oklahoma's death chamber.

Robert Don Duckett, 39, received a heart-stopping injection and was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.

He had not tried to stay his execution at the last minute, having already exhausted his appeals.

Duckett was a 24-year-old prison escapee in October 1988 when he killed John E. Howard, 53, with whom he briefly shared an apartment. Howard's severely beaten body was found in the apartment with his hands and feet bound with wire.

Prosecutors said Howard was killed because he wanted Duckett to move out. The defense alleged that Howard made a homosexual pass at Duckett, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a prison rape.

Duckett was serving time for a 1983 robbery and beating when he escaped from prison in 1987. Prosecutors also presented evidence that he had beaten and robbed an 85-year-old man in 1982.

Howard's brother, Tom, said Howard had recently returned from New York to help him with his Oklahoma City convenience store business. John Howard had given Duckett a job working in one of the stores.

Mark Howard said his father was known for taking people in and helping them out.

Both men planned to witness the execution.

"It means the man who took my father's life will not be allowed to have that opportunity anywhere else, with anyone else," Mark Howard said.

Duckett spent his final hours visiting with his parents. He was served his requested last meal of a small pizza, a chili cheese coney, a half-gallon of cookie-dough ice cream and a vanilla Coke.

An appeals court last year refused to overturn Duckett's death sentence despite condemning retired Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy's handling of the case.

"Macy's persistent misconduct, though it has not legally harmed the defendant in the present case, has without doubt harmed the reputation of Oklahoma's criminal justice system and left the unenviable legacy of an indelibly tarnished legal career," 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges wrote.

Duckett becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 66th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Oklahoma trails only Texas (306) and Virginia (88) in the number of executions since the United States Supreme Court re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.

Duckett becomes the 42nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 862nd overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Christopher Black Sr., 2003-07-09, Texas

A retired Army sergeant was executed today evening for murdering his 17-month-old step-granddaughter in a 1998 massacre where his wife and 5-month-old daughter also were gunned down.

Asked by the warden if he wanted to make a final statement, Christopher Black Sr., said no. As the drugs began flowing, he made a groaning sigh and was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m.

Black was convicted of killing Katrease Houston at the Killeen home of his estranged wife Gwendolyn Black, the toddler's grandmother. Katrease was found slumped in a high chair. She had been shot 5 times in the chest.

Her grandmother was shot 10 times. Black's daughter, Christina Marie, was shot once.

"I ran out of bullets," Black told a 911 operator he called after the Feb. 7, 1998, attack.

The U.S. Supreme Court in April refused to consider Black's appeal and no additional appeals were made, his lawyer, Jack Hurley, said.

Black bought a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol the day before the shooting. He mailed cassette tapes to relatives explaining plans to kill his 36-year-old wife and anyone else in the house. The tapes were timed to arrive after the shooting.

The couple had married just over 3 years earlier but relatives said Gwendolyn Black, who worked as an elementary school teacher in nearby Copperas Cove after leaving the Army, was seeking a divorce because she received little help from her husband with the children and he had moved out of town to take a security job.

Police who responded to 911 calls from Black and neighbors found him unarmed and holding his daughter to his chest.

"We approached him and he said he wasn't going to put the baby down on the cold ground," Officer Eric Bradley said. "As I reached up to grab the baby from him, he said: 'I want to kiss my baby.' I said go ahead.

"As I pulled the baby toward me, the baby's head kind of just rolled to the left... The eyes were open, fixed, no pulse, no respiration, no nothing."

It took a jury in Killeen 15 minutes to convict Black of capital murder of Katrease. In Texas, murder of a child under the age of 6 can be a death penalty case and the same jury deliberated about seven hours before deciding his punishment.

"I don't recall a case that was any more aggravated or any more vicious in the way the crime was committed and the consequences," Lon Curtis, the former assistant district attorney in Bell County who prosecuted Black, said this week. "The image of that baby, the little girl, slumped over in her high chair with 5 rounds in the chest... I wish I hadn't been reminded of that."

Black declined to speak from death row with reporters.

"My days are long and sad," he wrote on a Web site where inmates seek pen pals. "I do not want romance or money, the only thing that I want is a friend."

"He made his choices," Bradley said. "And that's where he's at."

Black becomes the 18th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 307th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Black becomes the 68th condemned inmate to be put to death since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Black becomes the 43rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 863rd overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Riley Dobi Noel, 31, 2003-07-09, Arkansas

A man who killed 3 children in the mistaken belief that their sister set up his brother for a gang hit was executed Wednesday night after courts and the governor rejected his pleas for mercy.

Riley Dobi Noel, 31, was pronounced dead by injection at 9:07 p.m., prison spokeswoman Dinah Tyler said.

In his final statement, Noel said: "I want my family to know I love them. I want my kids to know I love Jesus."

Noel had wanted one more round of mental examinations to prove that he had a brain disorder that would prevent his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Mike Huckabee turned Noel down Wednesday.

Jurors sentenced Noel to die after finding that he killed the 3 children execution-style on June 4, 1995, forcing them to lie on their kitchen floor before shooting each once in the head.

According to prosecutors, Noel and others burst into a southwest Little Rock home looking for Yashica Young, whom Noel believed had set up his brother, Cornelius "Skeeter" Ganaway. When he couldn't find her, he shot Malak Hussain, 10; Mustafa Hussain, 12; and Marcell Young, 17.

Kyle Jones of Miami, who had been Marcell Young's fiance, was selected to be one of the victims' family witnesses to watch the execution on closed-circuit television.

"He chose to make the decision to take their lives," Jones said after the execution. "Today the state of Arkansas chose to take his and I'm happy with it. I can move on knowing I won't have to live with this again."

Noel becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arkansas and the 25th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.

Noel becomes the 44th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 864th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Bryan Anthony Toles, 31, 2003-07-22, Oklahoma

Bryan Anthony Toles was executed Tuesday for the 1993 shooting deaths of a 39-year-old man and his 15-year-old son.

Toles, 31, was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. after receiving an injection of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Toles was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for the July 16, 1993, murders of Juan Franceschi and his son, Lonnie Franceschi.

The execution went forward when the U.S. Supreme Court denied Toles' request to stop it and take a new look at his death sentence.

As he lay strapped to a gurney, Toles offered his condolences to the Franceschi family.

"I'd like to apologize to the victims' family and ask them for their forgiveness," Toles said.

Toles primarily talked to members of his own family and his spiritual adviser, who were witnesses at his execution.

"I love all y'all. Thanks for coming. Take care of my mother," he said. "I'll see y'all later. We're all right."

Toles' eyelids began to flutter as the injections took effect.

"I fixing to pass out, I think," Toles said.

Members of his family wept as his eyes twitched. Toles struggled for breath and then his left arm and upper body began to twitch. His feet moved slowly before his body fell limp and he was pronounced dead.

About 15 minutes before his execution, other prisoners on death row began banging their cell doors to acknowledge the condemned inmate. The noise could be heard in the death chamber and drowned out some of what Toles said.

Juan and Lonnie Franceschi were shot shortly after midnight when Toles forced his way into their home in Lawton in an attempt to get the keys to the family car, according to Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office.

Juan Franceschi, a soldier in the Army four months short of retirement, was shot in the chest as he struggled with Toles. His son was shot in the back of the head as he lay face-down on the floor with his hands behind his back, authorities said.

Toles confessed to the murders following his arrest, according to Comanche County District Attorney Robert Shulte, who prosecuted Toles. A co-defendant, David Flowers, was also convicted on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison, Shulte said.

Norma Franceschi, Juan Franceschi's widow and Lonnie Franceschi's mother, attended Tuesday's execution hoping to find closure.

"I found closure," she said. "I have forgiven Toles. I came here to put closure in my life."

Franceschi, who says she still copes with the deaths and has suffered numerous breakdowns requiring medical attention, appreciated Toles' deathbed apology.

"I'm nobody to judge nobody. I'm just grateful he said 'I'm sorry.'"

Franceschi said she takes medication for anxiety and occasionally experiences flashbacks of the crime, which cause "uncontrollable trembling and screaming."

2 other executions are scheduled in July: Jackie Lee Willingham on Thursday and Harold Loyd McElmurry III on July 29.

Toles becomes the 12 condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 67th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Oklahoma trails only Texas (307) and Virginia (89) in the number of executions carried out since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Bobby Wayne Swisher, 27, 2003-07-22, Virginia

In Jarratt, Bobby Wayne Swisher was executed tonight, after a 3-week delay, for the rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman in Augusta County 6 years ago.

Swisher, 27, died by injection at 9:05 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center, said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

"I hope you all can find the same peace in Jesus Christ as I have," Swisher said in his last statement, according to Traylor.

Swisher, 27, abducted Dawn McNees Snyder on Feb. 5, 1997, as she was working late preparing for Valentine's Day at Enchanted Florist, a Stuarts Draft business she co-owned. Snyder's body was found later that month in a field within 2 miles of the shop.

Gov. Mark R. Warner did not make a statement today in response to Swisher's final petition for clemency last week.

"The July 1 statement had everything the governor was going to say about it," said Ellen Qualls, spokeswoman for Warner.

Swisher and his appeal attorneys, Anthony F. King and Steven D. Rosenfield, had hoped that Warner would intervene and grant a new sentencing hearing.

The governor delayed the execution, which had been set for July 1, until today to give Swisher a chance to ask the Virginia Supreme Court for a new sentencing. In his July 1 statement, Warner said the matter was best handled by the courts and that he would not intervene if the court rejected Swisher's request.

"Bobby Wayne Swisher committed a vile and reprehensible act - an act which I believe justifies the death penalty," the governor said.

Swisher's lawyers contended that the trial jury recommended the death penalty using a verdict form that the state Supreme Court, in a later case, found to be defective. The form did not clearly specify that a jury could impose a life sentence even if it found a crime vile enough or the defendant dangerous enough to warrant the death penalty.

Swisher's attorneys said the court "refused on procedural grounds to correct this admitted injustice." With the court refusing to act, the defense lawyers again turned to the governor, renewing their clemency request to him Friday.

Traylor said Swisher had no special requests for his last meal. Swisher visited yesterday with his mother and brother, attorneys and spiritual advisers.

At 8:30 p.m., 3 people stood outside the prison to protest Swisher's execution.

Charles Schrader of Charlottesville said it was the first time he had participated in such a protest. He said he wanted to be "a voice against what is happening."

Roy Lettieri of Franklin said he came to honor the work of Swisher's spiritual advisers, whom he knows. "Bobby is ready to go. He is going with a joyful heart," Lettieri said.

Francis Carlhian, who is from Belgium but lives in Charlottesville, said he was surprised there were so few protesters at the prison, noting that opposition to the death penalty is widespread in Europe.

"I was thinking a lot of people would come," said Carlhian, a housemate of Schrader. "A man is dying. It's crazy."

Swisher was convicted of capital murder in October 1997 and the jury recommended he be sentenced to death, a verdict that was imposed in February 1998 by Augusta Circuit Judge Thomas H. Wood.

During the trial, Swisher's lawyers did not dispute that he committed the crime, but they argued that Swisher should be spared because he was too high on drugs and alcohol to know what he was doing.

Swisher confessed to friends and investigators that he kidnapped and raped Snyder before cutting her throat. Swisher admitted that he pushed Snyder into the South River, but he panicked and ran when she started climbing out. Snyder's body was found 180 yards from the river.

In a telephone interview with The Times-Dispatch this month, Swisher said he was ready to die, if it came to that, because of a religious conversion about a year ago. He said he deeply regretted killing Snyder.

"I was just a wild child. I was out there having fun and partying. That was it," he said. "I was a stupid, narrow-minded kid and made bad choices with devastating results."

Snyder's mother, Sandi McNees of Stuarts Draft, said last month that she had come to peace with the killer of her only child, but that she believed, in accordance with the law, that Swisher should be executed. She said she intended to witness his execution.

"I vowed that I would see this thing through to the end, and this is the end of that part of Dawn's life," she said then. "And I feel that after the execution, Dawn - the victim - that part of her life will have ceased and I will have gained Dawn - the daughter - back."

Snyder, who was separated from her husband when she was killed, had a daughter who is now 9, McNees said. She was also an emergency-medical technician with the rescue squad and had helped to save lives, her mother said.

Swisher becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 89th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982.

(sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch & Rick Halperin)

     Cedric Ransom, 29, 2003-07-23, Texas

A Fort Worth man who attacked one of his own attorneys and a prosecutor during his capital murder trial was executed this evening for robbing and fatally shooting a gun dealer, 1 of 4 slayings authorities linked him to during a 17-day spree in 1991.

In a brief final statement, Cedric Ransom, 29, thanked a friend and spiritual adviser who were present to watch him die.

"You have been beautiful to me. Without you in my life, I would not have been able to make it like this. Probably I would have put up a good fight. You have calmed me," he said.

Ransom told them he loved them. As the lethal drugs began taking effect, he told them "I'll be OK." He gasped a couple of times, exhaled and stopped breathing. 9 minutes later, at 6:21 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

"He was a bad guy," said Richard Bland, one of the Tarrant County prosecutors who tried Ransom's case.

Besides the Dec. 7, 1991, slaying of optometrist and part-time gun dealer Herbert Primm, Bland said Ransom was involved in 3 fatal robberies of convenience stores.

"Most people go to an ATM to get cash," Bland said. "He'd go to convenience stores and not leave any witnesses."

In late appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ransom contended he was mentally retarded and should be ineligible for execution under a high court ruling in another case last year. About an hour before his scheduled punishment, the high court rejected the appeals.

At the conclusion of jury selection during his trial, Ransom used a smuggled 5 1/2-inch piece of broken glass hidden in his hand to try to stab one of his attorneys in the back. Ignoring orders from a bailiff to back off, Ransom turned his attention to a nearby prosecutor.

"He was coming at me and his words were very clear: 'I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you!'" recalled Bob Gill, now a state district judge in Tarrant County. "He got to me and the fight was on. He and I went down. I knew what was in his hand and I grabbed that arm with both my hands."

Neither Gill nor the defense attorney, Chris Phillips, was seriously hurt in the November 1992 attack, but both were removed from the case.

Ransom went on to trial and was convicted of capital murder for gunning down Primm, 47, outside Primm's Arlington home. Ransom was 18 at the time.

Gill wound up being a witness to help show how Ransom was a continuing threat, one of the questions jurors had to answer when determining a death sentence.

Ransom's death sentence was overturned in 1994 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled his trial judge improperly excluded a potential juror. Prosecutors returned him to court in 1997 for another sentencing trial where, against his lawyers' advice, he took the stand, denied he was guilty of the Primm slaying but confessed to multiple convenience store murders.

The 2nd jury also sentenced him to death.

Testimony showed Ransom, a ninth-grade dropout, and three companions went to Primm's house to look at some guns. Primm, who held a federal firearms license, opened the trunk of his car and the four pulled out their own weapons. According to testimony, Primm told the gun thieves to "just take them" but Ransom bent him over the hood of the car and then shot Primm once in the head with a .44-caliber pistol. He was arrested 3 days later.

While locked up in Fort Worth, records showed he attacked a jailer. And while on death row outside Huntsville in 1997, he and a second condemned inmate used a hacksaw blade to cut through a fence and were on their way to escaping when they were spotted by a guard.

"There is no question at all," Gill said. "This is one of the more dangerous guys I've come across in 20 years in the criminal courts."

Ransom's 3 companions in the Primm slaying also are in prison, serving terms of at least 20 years.

"We had a couple of the co-defendants to testify against him," Gill said. "We had information that connected him to the operation before hand and connected him to the murder weapon. One or more of the guns stolen from the victim were found at his residence.

"It turned out all right. He got what I feel he deserved."

On Thursday evening, Allen Wayne Janecka faces lethal injection for being the hit man in a murder-for-hire plot that left 4 members of a Houston family dead. Among the victims was 14-month-old Kevin Wanstrath, who was fatally shot in his crib in 1979.

Ransom becomes the 19th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 308th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Ransom becomes the 69th condemned inmate to be put to death since Rick Perry became Governor of Texas in 2001.

Ransom also becomes the 47th condemned inmate to be put to death in the USA this year, and the 867th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977. Ransom's execution is also the 700th to be carried out nationally via lethal injection.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Jackie Lee Willingham, 33, 2003-07-24, Oklahoma

In McAlester, a man who fatally beat a Lawton woman he said was rude to him was executed Thursday for her 1994 murder.

Jackie Lee Willingham, 33, was pronounced dead at 6:09 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Willingham, who was working as a traveling perfume salesman at the time of the crime, was convicted of 1st degree for beating Jayne Van Wey to death in her office bathroom after she refused to buy perfume from him.

"I want to apologize to the Van Wey family. I'm so sorry for the pain I've caused you," Willingham said before his execution. "I hope by my death you find some closure and one day forgive me. For my family, I'm so sorry for this. I love you."

Willingham then looked up and said, "OK, I'm ready."

Early Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Willingham's request to stay his execution.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted last month in favor of granting Willingham clemency and asked Gov. Brad Henry to stay the execution. Henry rejected the request.

Fred Staggs, Willingham's attorney, argued jurors should have been given the option to convict Willingham of 2nd-degree murder for what Staggs described as a crime of passion.

3 death penalty protesters were arrested Thursday at the state Capitol after a rally in opposition of Willingham's execution.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers assigned to Henry's security detail took the demonstrators into custody as they walked down a hall toward Henry's office.

They face misdemeanor charges of disrupting a state office or business.

In McAlester, members of Van Wey's family gathered at the prison, some still struggling to understand the crime.

"I think it would be possible to separate the actions from the person," said Lance Johnson, Van Wey's nephew. "I'm sure he knows how regrettable his actions are. I just have a sense of great sadness that he chose to do the awful hostile thing that afternoon."

Prosecutors say Willingham followed Van Wey into the women's bathroom, yanked her off the toilet and beat her to death.

Autopsy reports show she died as her lungs filled with blood and she suffocated. Her head had been banged against the wall, her mouth busted and nose broken.

Van Wey, who was the executive director of Arts for All Inc., in Lawton, was vibrant and full of energy, her family said. The petite 62-year-old mother of 3 daughters promoted the arts and once owned a dance school in Lawton.

During his trial, Willingham said he had not meant to kill Van Wey, only to hurt her because she was rude to him. He testified that while he was in her office trying to sell perfume, Van Wey asked him to leave, called him names and slammed the door on him.

"I was angry. I was upset," Willingham testified during the 1995 trial. "I was frustrated and upset with her for being rude to me.

"I just couldn't get in the mood to sell anymore. It ruined my whole day."

His execution is 1 of 5 scheduled for July in Oklahoma. Harold Loyd McElmurry III is set to die Tuesday for the 1999 murders of an elderly McIntosh County couple.

Willingham becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 68th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on September 10, 1990.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Allen Wayne Janecka, 53, 2003-07-24, Texas

In Huntsville, aconvicted hit man was executed this evening for fatally shooting a 14-month-old Houston boy in his crib more than 24 years ago as part of a murder-for-hire scheme that also left the child's parents shot dead.

Allen Wayne Janecka, 53, also was blamed for strangling the toddler's grandmother in 1975 in a plot orchestrated by the woman's son, Markham Duff-Smith.

In each case, Duff-Smith, who was executed more than 10 years ago for paying Janecka to kill his adopted mother, was trying to eliminate relatives so he could collect an inheritance.

In a brief statement, Janecka expressed love to his family and thanked prison chaplains "who have brought me a long way."

"For many years, I've done things my way, which has caused a lot of pain to me, my family and others," he said, his voice shaking. "I have come to realize that for peace and happiness, one has to do things God's way."

He concluded his statement with a prayer: "Lord into your hands I commit my spirit thy will be done."

As the drugs began taking effect, he gasped 3 times before slipping into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead 7 minutes later at 6:21 p.m.

Janecka becomes the 20th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 309th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Harold Loyd McElmurry, 2003-07-29, Oklahoma

In McAlester, Harold Loyd McElmurry III asked for forgiveness just before he was executed Tuesday and received it from the grandson of the McIntosh County couple he murdered in 1999.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the Pendleys. I hope they can forgive me," were his last words before drugs were administered at 6:04 p.m. in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

The Muskogee man looked up, turned his head to the side, made a slight snoring sound and was pronounced dead 2 minutes later at 6:06.

He was much heavier than the slender inmate who slithered between the bars at the McIntosh County Jail and escaped the day before he was scheduled to go on trial in 2000 for fatally stabbing and bludgeoning Robert and Vivian Pendley. He was captured the next day.

He and his wife, Vickie, were convicted of killing Robert Pendley, an 80-year-old paraplegic and his 75-year-old wife on Aug. 1, 1999, at their rural home near Lenna.

McElmurry, 33, didn't file an appeal after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his conviction and death sentence last year. He waived a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McElmurry's decision not to seek additional appeals made it easier for the Pendleys' grandson, also named Robert, to grant McElmurry's request for forgiveness.

"I think he was sincere," said the grandson, who witnessed the execution along with his wife, Sheila, his father, also named Robert, and the father's wife, Diana.

"I do believe that I forgave Harold," he said, adding that is was "a hard thing to do because of the brutality" of the crime.

The grandson, who lives in Nowata, had fond memories of visiting his grandparents. "We just had a blast. They were like my mother and father, they really were. Just to see them go like they did it's been really tough."

McElmurry had done odd jobs for the couple. At trial, he testified he felt bad about killing Robert Pendley, who "was always real nice to me."

The couple was bludgeoned with garden implements. Robert Pendley was knocked from his wheel chair, then stabbed repeatedly with scissors.

Vivian Pendley tried to escape, but investigators said that McElmurry had his wife catch and hold the woman while he beat her to death. Vickie McElmurry is serving 2 life sentences.

McElmurry and his wife were caught in Texas near the Mexican border in the Pendley's automobile. They also had stolen 2 pistols and $70.

The condemned man testified he and his wife planned the crime, shooting up with methamphetamine before carrying it out.

The Pendleys issued a statement thanking prosecutors, police and "all of those who have prayed for our family since this nightmare began."

They described the victims as "simply 2 of the best people you could ever meet."

"They shared a love of nature and animals which was apparent to anyone who passed their home, a love of people which was obvious to anyone who was lucky enough to strike up a conversation with them and an extraordinary love for one another -- their devoted union lasted 57 years," the statement read.

McElmurry is the 14th person to be executed in Oklahoma this year. The record for executions in one year in Oklahoma is 18, set in 2001. Before that, 14 people were executed in 1933. McElmurry becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this month, and the 69th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.

Oklahome trails only Texas (309) and Virginia (89) in the number of executions carried out since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Tommy Jerry Fortenberry, 39, 2003-08-7, Alabama

In Atmore, a man on death row for the shooting deaths of 4 people during a 1984 robbery at an Attalla service station was executed by lethal injection Thursday.

Tommy Jerry Fortenberry, 39, died at 6:16 p.m. CDT at Holman Prison after his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Alabama Supreme Court were rejected.

Fortenberry, 39, was convicted and sentenced to die for the deaths of the station owner's son, Mike Guest, 21, store clerk Wilbur Nelson, 51, and customers Bobby Payne, 43, and his wife Nancy, 29, who had come to the station to buy soft drinks and cigarettes.

One of Fortenberry's attorneys, Jim McGlaughn of Gadsden, said he felt Fortenberry lost his best chance to stop the execution when Gov. Bob Riley turned down a request for clemency. Riley declined to stop the execution a day after his legal adviser, Troy King, held a clemency hearing.

Fortenberry's mother made an emotional plea to King to spare her son's life. But the legal adviser also heard passionate pleas from members of the victims' families that the execution should proceed as scheduled.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was based partly on the fact that Riley did not personally attend the clemency hearing.

Fortenberry's appeal also repeated previous claims that police coerced Fortenberry into making a confession and that his trial attorneys failed to do enough during the sentencing phase of the trial to convince jurors to spare their client's life.

Fortenberry has been on death row for 17 years and in recent years was housed at Donaldson prison in Jefferson County. He was transferred to Holman on July 3 and recently moved into a holding cell inside the concrete block building that houses the death chamber.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Fortenberry declined to eat breakfast, then was moved to a visitation area at about 8:30 a.m. and spent the day meeting with family members, including his parents, Betty and Jerry Fortenberry.

Fortenberry, 20 at the time of the murders, told police he needed money because of a gambling habit and was robbing Nelson at gunpoint when Guest tried to talk him into giving up his weapon and the Paynes drove up to the station, according to trial testimony and evidence at the clemency hearing.

Fortenberry told police he shot Guest and Payne outside the station, returned inside to shoot Nelson, and then fired what he called a "pot" shot at Nancy Payne, who was trying to run for help. Fortenberry later claimed he was at the station, but another man shot the 4 victims.

Fortenberry becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama and the 28th overall since the state resumed capital punishement on April 22, 1983.

Fortenberry becomes the 51st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 871st overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     William Quentin Jones, 34, 2003-08-22, North Carolina

William Quentin Jones told his victim's family he was sorry before he was executed Friday for the shooting death of a man at a Raleigh convenience store.

Jones, 34, had been on death row since 1987, when a Wake County Superior Court jury convicted him of killing Edward Peebles, a plasterer who had stopped for coffee.

Jones was pronounced dead at 2:16 a.m. Friday after receiving an injection at Central Prison in Raleigh, where a small gallery of reporters, his family and the victim's family watched through a thick glass window.

Jones winked at his lawyer and his relatives when he was brought into the execution chamber. His brother, uncle and lawyer watched as did his victim's wife, daughter, 2 sisters and brother.

During the 10 minutes he waited for the injection of lethal drugs, he looked repeatedly at members of Peebles' family and said, "I'm sorry."

Just before the drugs put him to sleep, Jones looked back at his uncle and lawyer and said "I'm gone." He then said "I love you" several times to family.

The family witnesses made no comment after the execution. Jones' last statement was made in English and Arabic asking for mercy.

Outside the prison, a group of between 30 and 40 death penalty opponents held a candlelight vigil.

Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, said a drug used in executions made the death appear peaceful but paralyzes muscles and masks any pain that the inmate may feel.

Marsha Early, assistant minister at North East Baptist Church in Durham, said she came to the protest because she believes the death penalty isn't administered uniformly.

"If the message is we'll kill you if you kill someone, it's not administered that way," Early said.

Jones had eaten his last meal by 5:30 p.m., while still waiting for word on whether he the U.S. Supreme Court or Gov. Mike Easley would stop his execution.

Jones was 18 when he came into the store and indiscriminately fired an Uzi, killing Peebles, during a robbery on March 7, 1987. The shooting also injured another customer, Orlando Watson.

Jones pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder, and two separate juries sentenced him to die.

His attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but the court refused without comment Thursday to block the execution. Easley also declined to grant executive clemency.

Peebles' family told Easley that Jones deserved to die.

A tape from a security camera showed that Jones fired 6 shots from a gun as he entered the convenience store. He fired before announcing that he was robbing the store and discharged a total of 10 bullets.

Jones' lawyers argued that his death sentence should have been commuted because he was 18 years old at the time of the murder.

Since taking office in 2001, Easley - a former prosecutor and state attorney general - has granted clemency to 2 of the 12 other inmates who have had execution dates set. Of the 10 others, 7 were executed.

Jones' execution was the first since the state Senate approved legislation in April to halt executions for two years. The House never took up the legislation, but could consider it next year. It also was the 1st since the execution of Henry Lee Hunt was stayed while the state Supreme Court reviewed, and upheld, the legality of the state's indictment form.

2 more executions are scheduled this year: Hunt on Sept. 12 and Joseph Earl Bates on Sept. 26. A total of 24 people have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.

Jones becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 24th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Paul Hill, 43, 2003-09-03, Florida

Paul Hill, a former minister turned shotgun killer, was executed by lethal injection Wednesday at Florida State Prison, becoming the 1st American executed for anti-abortion violence.

Hill, 49, was condemned for the 1994 slayings of Dr. John Britton and volunteer escort James Barrett, as they arrived at a Pensacola abortion clinic. The double murder capped a decade of violence by anti-abortion advocates in the Panhandle city.

Outside the razor-wired prison in this north Florida town Wednesday, a crowd of about 80 abortion opponents and anti-death penalty advocates gathered in an open field to protest Hill's execution, battling at first the sultry heat of the day and then enduring drenching thunderstorms.

"Abortion doctors commit premeditated, cold-blooded murder 10 or 20 times a day," said the Rev. David Trosch, a Catholic priest from Mobile, Ala. "What Paul Hill did was absolutely justified. It was not murder. It was taking the life of a murderer who intended to commit further murders."

Protestors came from as far away as New Jersey and California but few major national activists attended. Many anti-abortion groups have disavowed Hill because of the killings.

A married, father of 3, Hill had told reporters in a jailhouse interview Tuesday that he is a martyr in the anti-abortion cause and hoped his death would inspire more clinic attacks.

"I believe in the short and long term, more and more people will act on the principles for which I started," Hill said in the hourlong interview, during which he expressed no remorse.

Security outside the state prison was the tightest its been since serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in 1989. Local and state law officers, some with bomb-sniffing dogs, guarded the entrance to the prison, while helicopters hovered overheard.

Even in the early afternoon hours before the execution, protesters held signs along the roadway and at a nearby restaurant. A red Toyota truck with American flags and pictures of bloody fetuses drove up and down the highway in front of the prison.

The soft-spoken Hill, tall, pale and with receding blond hair, spent Wednesday morning saying goodbye to his wife, 18-year-old son, parents and 2 sisters, having met earlier this week with his two daughters, age 15 and 13.

Hill's spiritual advisor, Rev. Donald Spitz, founder of the anti-abortion group, Army of God, also met with Hill. Spitz said Hill was prepared to die.

"He is smiling most of the time," said Spitz, director of Pro-Life Virginia. "He has not wavered one inch from believing that what he did is right."

Hill becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Florida and the 57th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.

Florida trails only Texas (309), Virginia (89), Oklahoma (69) and Missouri (60) in the number of executions since the country re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.

Hill becomes the 53rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 873rd overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Orlando Sentinel & Rick Halperin)

     Larry Hayes, 54, 2003-09-10, Texas

A Montgomery County man was executed tonight for the 1999 murders of his wife and another woman.

Larry Hayes, 54, expedited his death by dropping his appeals. He said he was eager to atone for his crime.

"I feel by carrying (the appeals) on I'm lying about the fact of what I did," said Hayes of Woodloch, which is near Conroe.

Hayes was convicted of shooting his wife, Mary, 7 times in the head on July 15, 1999, the night after she told him she'd been having an affair. 20 minutes later he shot 18-year-old Rosalyn Robinson - a college-bound high school graduate -- while stealing her car from a nearby convenience store.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jim Prewitt said the crimes warranted the death penalty.

"What he did with the 2 victims was just horrible," said Prewitt, who prosecuted Hayes.

Hayes, who once served as Sunday school director for a Conroe church, did not have much of a criminal record prior to the night of violence, but his wife had complained to police and a local shelter that she had been abused. Hayes never was convicted of domestic violence.

In a recent interview, Hayes said the murders occurred after he had fought with his wife all day and night about the affair. He said she told him "that I needed to get over it and live with it or just go get your gun and kill me."

"I snapped," he said. "I don't know any other word for it."

He sent his 9-year-old daughter from the house and went after his wife. She was shot to death hiding under her daughter's bed.

Hayes grabbed some clothes and prescription medications and fled to a Diamond Shamrock convenience store and gas station in Grangerland where he encountered Robinson. He shot Robinson because she refused to come with him.

"At that time I really wasn't in my mind. She wouldn't get in the car. I figured, 'I can't leave her here with a pay phone inside the store, I wouldn't make it a mile down the road,'" he said.

Hayes was arrested in Polk County after being wounded in a gunbattle with sheriff's deputies.

Hayes had been diagnosed as bipolar and manic depressive in 1998. At the time of the crime spree he was taking Prozac and Valium. Hayes said he believes the drugs contributed to the crimes, but he does not blame them for his actions.

Hayes said he wanted to plead guilty at his trial but his defense attorneys talked him out of it. Once convicted, he did not want to appeal.

John MacDonald was appointed to represent Hayes during an appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which was mandated by state law.

Because Hayes did not want the appeal, MacDonald said he compromised. He filed an appeal with the court and then filed a motion asking the court to dismiss it, leaving it up to the 9-judge panel to decide what to do. The court considered Hayes' appeal and rejected it last fall.

Hayes decided not to pursue a 2nd round of appeals.

Hayes was examined this spring and found mentally competent, Prewitt said.

It is unusual for a condemned inmate to drop his or her appeals and volunteer for execution. Of the 309 people executed in Texas since 1976, only 19 have waived their appeals and voluntarily gone to their deaths.
Nationally, 99 out of the 873 people executed since 1976 volunteered.

Hayes said he used his time on death row to make peace with God and he is prepared to die.

"I actually get excited when I think about seeing friends and loved ones ... in heaven," he said. "I have no doubt where I am going."

(sources: Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)

     Henry Lee Hunt, 58, 2003-09-12, North Carolina

A Robeson County man convicted of two 1984 slayings was executed by injection Friday, hours after the state Supreme Court dissolved a lower court's stay.

Henry Lee Hunt, 58, was pronounced dead at 2:17 a.m. at Central Prison in Raleigh, according to the state Department of Correction.

The execution went forward after the state Supreme Court sided with prosecutors Thursday afternoon and vacated a stay issued on Tuesday by a Robeson County judge who said execution procedures should be reviewed.

Defense lawyers had asked the courts to review whether the state should use two drugs, not the three it now uses, for lethal injections.

Justices said the Legislature didn't intend to limit the drugs or chemicals that can be used when it included the word "only" in the statute enacted in 1998. The intent was to outlaw lethal gas and use only injection, the court said.

The court denied Hunt's innocence claim as well.

Gov. Mike Easley also denied clemency for Hunt late Thursday, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his other appeals.

"I find no convincing reason to grant clemency and overturn the unanimous jury verdicts affirmed by the state and federal courts," Easley said in a statement denying Hunt's request.

Hunt's lawyer argued that state law requires the use of two types of drugs - a fast-acting barbiturate and a paralytic agent. Attorney Steven Holley said the state illegally added potassium chloride, which stops the heart, to the mixture.

Hunt, who has been held in the death watch area across the hallway from the death chamber, visited with his family and attorneys Thursday afternoon, said prison officials.

Hunt has maintained his innocence and produced an affidavit signed by a codefendant who died awaiting execution. The affidavit, which had been rejected by courts earlier because its origins couldn't be documented, said Elwell Barnes committed the killings.

"I'll maintain my innocence until the day I die," Hunt has said.

This was the second time Hunt had received a stay of execution that eventually was overturned by the state's highest court. In January, lawyers won a stay while the court decided that the state's indictment form was constitutional.

Jurors convicted Hunt in the death of Jackie Ransom, whose wife paid to have him killed to make her 2nd marriage legal. He also was convicted of killing Larry Jones, a police informant prosecutors said knew about Ransom's killing.

4 other people were sentenced to prison for their roles in the killings. All but 1 has since died.

Hunt becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina, and the 25th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Joseph Earl Bates, 35, 2003-09-26, North Carolina

Twice-convicted murderer Joseph Earl Bates of Yadkinville was executed early today.

The U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Mike Easley declined Thursday evening to stop the execution.

Bates' lawyers asked Easley this week to convert Bates' sentence to life in prison because they said brain damage from a car wreck contributed to the murder, which happened 3 years later.

They also said Bates got poor legal representation in an earlier appeal.

"Joe's brain injury led directly to the circumstances that put him on death row," said Bates' lead attorney, Rosemary Godwin of Raleigh.
"Execution is not the appropriate punishment for Joe, given his history of mental impairment."

Bates, 35, died by lethal injection at 2:14 a.m. at Central Prison for the 1990 shooting death of Charles Edwin Jenkins. He was also serving a 40-year sentence for kidnapping Jenkins.

Bates confessed to the crimes.

State prosecutors had said Bates has no legal claims warranting a stay of his execution or further review of his case by appeals courts.

State appeals lawyers and Jenkins' family told Easley that Bates' execution should go forward, saying he committed a premeditated, brutal killing. Jenkins' body was found in the Yadkin River with a fatal gunshot.

After the clemency hearing Tuesday at the Capitol, Godwin said Easley seemed interested in the effects of the brain damage on Bates.

Godwin said she told Easley that Bates became increasingly anxious, agitated, paranoid, aggressive and alcoholic after the 1987 car wreck, which mangled his right arm and leg, and injured the front of his brain.

"His personality changed," she said. "He was no longer a happy-go-lucky, easygoing guy."

After someone fired shots at his trailer, Bates grew increasingly paranoid that friends of his estranged wife were out to kill him, Godwin said. He set booby traps at home and began sleeping in cars and trees, she said.

On or about Aug. 11, 1990, Bates and another man offered Jenkins a ride home from a bar, according to case records. Bates later fatally shot Jenkins in the neck. Jenkins' body was found in the Yadkin River on Aug. 25.

Godwin said Bates mistakenly thought Jenkins was part of a conspiracy to kill him.

"In Joe's mind, he believed that what happened with Charlie that night was necessary to his survival," Godwin said.

A Yadkin County jury 1st convicted Bates of 1st-degree murder and sentenced him to death in March 1991.

On appeal, Bates won a new trial. His second trial, in 1994, ended with another conviction of 1st-degree murder, another sentence of death, and a 40-year sentence for kidnapping.

Bates' lawyers argue that he had lousy legal representation in an appeal after his 2nd conviction -- one lawyer worked little on the case, the other suffered debilitating depression, and they didn't press the brain-damage issue.

"What he got was far below the representation he should have received," said Raleigh lawyer Rob Hale, Bates' other current lawyer. "No court has ever considered these claims."

A Yadkin County judge last week denied a new request by Bates' lawyers to review his case, and the state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied his request for a stay of his execution.

Bates becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 26th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: News Observer & Rick Halperin)

     Edward Ernest Hartman, 38, North Carolina

In Raleigh, a man convicted in a 1993 shooting death in Northampton County said just one word in the final minutes of his life, turning to greet one of his lawyers and then turning back to stare at the ceiling of the death chamber.

Edward Hartman, 38, was executed by injection at Central Prison in Raleigh. He was pronounced dead at 2:14 a.m., Department of Correction spokeswoman Pam Walker said.

Hartman was sentenced to die for the slaying of 77-year-old Herman Smith Jr. in the Pinetops community. Smith was a former boyfriend of Hartman's mother and Hartman was living at his house.

Hartman issued no final statement.

He appeared to say "hi" or "hey" to attorney Heather Wells through a window shortly after he was brought into the death chamber and then smiled before turning away.

He didn't acknowledge any of the other 11 people who watched his execution, choosing to alternately close his eyes and stare at the ceiling until prison medical workers began to administer the lethal drugs at 2 a.m.

Wells cried as Hartman's stomach heaved. Edwin West III, another of Hartman's lawyers, put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her. They hugged just before Hartman was declared dead.

None of Hartman's family witnessed the execution. Larry Smith, Herman Smith's son, watched stoically.

He and the other witnesses declined to comment after Hartman's death.

Wells argued that Hartman was sentenced to death because of anti-gay bias by prosecutors during his trial. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal Thursday alleging discrimination based on Hartman's homosexuality.

Gov. Mike Easley denied clemency for Hartman on Thursday, declining to reduce Hartman's sentence to life in prison.

A prosecutor repeatedly referred to Hartman's sexual preference during his original trial, even though it had nothing to do with Smith's death, Wells said.

"From jury selection through the cross-examination of several penalty phase witnesses, the prosecution repeatedly made references to Eddie's homosexuality," Wells said. "Eddie's homosexuality has no relevance to the crime or the circumstances surrounding the crime and no relevance to whether he should live or die."

Gay rights groups protested the sentence and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the U.S. government to intervene so the commission could investigate.

"This is a case where the victim was 77 years old and killed in his home," Northampton County prosecutor Valerie Mitchell Asbell said. "This killing was premeditated. It was a horrible killing."

Hartman told authorities he drank 16 cans of beer before he shot Smith in the head from close range while the man sat in a recliner watching television.

Hartman told a friend Smith carried thousands of dollars in his pocket, court records show. He took the man's car and left the body in the chair.

He eventually buried the body in a horse stable and led authorities there after learning he was a suspect.

About 100 people opposed to the death penalty gathered outside the prison late Thursday, many holding candles and singing. 8 or 9 protesters sat in a driveway blocking traffic into the prison. No arrests were reported.

Hartman becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 27th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

    John Clayton Smith, 42, 2003-10-20, Missouri

A Missouri inmate who waived his remaining appeals and said he preferred death over more prison time was executed early today in the 1997 bloody slayings of his former girlfriend and her stepfather.

John Clayton Smith, 42, was put to death by injection at the Potosi Correctional Center in the fatal stabbings of Brandie Kearns and Wayne Hoewing in their northeast Missouri home.

Smith stabbed and cut Kearns, 22, 8 times. She survived long enough to scrawl "It was Joh-" in her own blood on the kitchen floor and leave a dying farewell to her toddler daughter. The girl was later found unharmed at the feet of her dead mother's body. Hoewing, 51, was knifed 11 times.

Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Bob Holden declined two clemency requests filed without the inmate's blessings.

Smith also had access to forms for 11th-hour federal appeals Tuesday but never made use of them.

Department of Corrections officials declared Smith dead minutes after the first of three injections were administered. Smith mouthed the words "I'm sorry" to reporters and other state witnesses, then did the same toward the victims' witnesses. After the execution was completed and it was announced that Smith was dead, 1 witness on behalf of the victims said "burn in hell."

Smith's push to halt his appeals dated at least to mid-2001, when he told the judge who condemned him that he was "totally guilty," "very sorry," mentally fit to abandon his legal challenges and ready to die "once and for all."

"The punishment of death is suitable," he wrote then.

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to intervene.

Earlier Tuesday, one of Brandie Kearns' sisters said she looked forward to watching Smith die, accusing the killer of "taking the easy way out" as a killer "too much of a coward to live in prison."

"I'm just very glad he's going to burn in hell," said Bridie Brooks, 31, an insurance claims examiner in Williamstown. She called Smith's demise "the ultimate justice."

Smith and Kearns dated about 2 years before Kearns broke off the relationship roughly a month before Smith sneaked into the family's home near Canton and knifed Kearns and her stepfather. Hoewing, while mortally wounded, managed to point a loaded firearm at Smith.

"Go ahead and shoot me," Smith taunted Hoewing in the wee hours of that July 5, 1997.

No shot was fired, and Smith walked from the scene.

While clinging to life, Kearns used her blood to scrawl "It was Joh-" "I (heart) Tatu-" and "-and s-v- T-tum" on the floor. The last 2 messages referred to Tatum, Kearns' baby girl. Tatum, now 7, is living with Kearns' mother.

Smith becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 61st overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     James Willie Brown, 55, 2003-11-04, Georgia

Convicted killer James Willie Brown was executed Tuesday for the 1975 rape and murder of a woman he met in an Atlanta nightclub.

Brown, the 3rd man to die by lethal injection in Georgia this year, died at 8:32 p.m. after an hourlong delay while the U.S. Supreme Court considered his case.

The court denied his late appeal, as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester had done earlier.

Brown, who appeared emotionless throughout, declined to make a last statement or have a final prayer said for him.

He lay motionless, his eyes open. But as the combination of lethal chemicals took hold, he closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter sat on the 1st row as one of the witnesses.

About 4 p.m. Brown ate his final meal.

The 55-year-old man was the 34th man executed in Georgia since the U.S.

Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973 and the 11th in Georgia to die by lethal injection since the Georgia Supreme Court in 2001 declared the electric chair cruel and unusual punishment. He was the 1st to die in the state since Carl Isaacs in May.

Only 5 states have executed more condemned prisoners than Georgia since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976 (Texas-310, Va.-89, Okla.-69, Mo.-61, and Fla.-57)

Brown met Brenda Sue Watson, a topless dancer, at the "What It Is" lounge in Atlanta May 12, 1975, according to court testimony. The couple went to the Mark Inn hotel lounge in Stone Mountain, where they ate dinner, drank and played pinball. Witnesses said Brown and Watson appeared to be a couple enjoying an evening together.

He later took Watson to an old logging road in Gwinnett County near the DeKalb County line. He bound Watson with nylon cord, raped, sodomized and suffocated her.

Brown had served prison time for a previous rape and was wanted by DeKalb authorities for another killing when he was arrested in Watson's death.

Lawyers for Brown unsuccessfully argued that their client should not be executed because he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

A fellow jail inmate who testified against Brown at his trial recanted her story. Anita Jean Tucker told jurors that Brown advised her to act insane in order to be exonerated. But Tucker later said she lied because she hoped to get a lighter sentence in exchange for her testimony.

On Friday the state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Brown's clemency pleas, clearing the way for Tuesday's execution.

The execution was opposed by Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a group that maintained a vigil outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, where death row inmates are held and executions carried out.

Laura Moye of Amnesty International noted that 3 of Watson's aunts wrote the parole board to ask that Brown's sentence be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"The murder victim's family deserves justice, and even they agree that putting such an ill man as Mr. Brown to death would not serve that purpose," Moye said.

Brown's brother, Harold, has said that his brother was not mentally ill but a mean man who deserved his fate.

(sources: Atlanta Journal Constitution & Rick Halperin)

     Joseph Timothy Keel, 39, 2003-11-07, North Carolina

A North Carolina man was executed Friday morning for the 1990 slaying of his father-in-law after failed legal appeals that included a claim he was mentally retarded.

Joseph Timothy Keel, 39, was executed by lethal injection at Central Prison in Raleigh. He was pronounced dead at 2:18 a.m., said Department of Correction spokeswoman Pam Walker.

Keel confessed to luring Johnny Simmons, with whom he lived, to an isolated area on an Edgecombe County hog farm where Keel worked the night of July 10, 1990.

Keel shot the man with a .22 caliber rifle, firing through the window of Simmons' vehicle. He later told police a shot was fired from another car as it drove past.

Prosecutors said Keel was a vicious killer who also killed his infant son in 1986 and deserved execution. The defense didn't dispute he killed Simmons, but contended Keel was mentally retarded. State law bars the execution of mentally retarded people.

Defense lawyer Jay Ferguson said Keel had the mental ability of a fifth-grader and suffered mental illness from an early age because his uncles plied him with alcohol. The defense also said Keel suffered brain injuries at birth as well as when he was later hit by a steel beam.

Ferguson said an expert pegged his IQ at 70, the level below which the law defines as retarded.

But prosecutors argued that Keel's IQ was 87 and that he had shown no mental problems in prison, where he earned a high-school equivalency certificate and took religion courses.

Keel's final chance to stave off execution evaporated Thursday when Gov. Mike Easley denied a petition to change the death sentence to life in prison.

"I find no compelling reasons to invalidate the sentence recommended by two juries and affirmed by the courts," Easley said in a statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court and 2 state appeals courts had earlier blocked efforts to stop Keel's execution.

Keel becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 28th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     John Dennis Daniels, 46, 2003-11-14, North Carolina

In Raleigh, a man who strangled his elderly aunt in 1990 was executed early Friday by injection.

John Dennis Daniels, 46, was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m. at Central Prison in Raleigh, corrections officials said.

A jury sentenced Daniels to death for fatally choking 77-year-old Isabella Daniels Crawford with an ironing cord. He was also convicted of assaulting his wife and son with a hammer, assaulting his neighbor with a knife and attempting to burn his house after Crawford was killed.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Daniels' appeal, and Gov.

Mike Easley refused to commute Daniels' sentence to life in prison. A Superior Court judge declined earlier this week to block the execution.

Daniels had been having marital problems and was behind on his rent when he went to his aunt's house in Charlotte on Jan. 17, 1990, to ask for money. He also asked if his wife and son could live with her.

Crawford refused and said she was going to call his mother. Daniels hit her in the face and choked her with the cord, took $70 to $80 and returned home.

Daniels becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 29th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Robert Henry, 41, 2004-11-20, Texas

In Huntsville, the convicted killer of an elderly woman and her daughter at their Corpus Christi-area home was executed Thursday night, the 1st in the nation's busiest capital punishment state in nearly 2 1/2 months.

Robert Henry, 41, replied, "No sir," when asked by the warden if he had a final statement.

In the seconds before the drugs began taking effect, he smiled and nodded toward some friends and relatives watching nearby through a window, then mouthed, "bye-bye. I love you. Here I go." Then he blew them a kiss and immediately snorted and gasped as the drugs took effect. 8 minutes later, at 6:19 p.m. he was pronounced dead.

He never looked at relatives of his 2 victims, who were watching through another window.

Henry was condemned for the fatal beating and stabbing of Hazel Rumohr, 83, and her daughter, Carol Arnold, 57, more than 10 years ago at their home in Portland, across the bay from Corpus Christi.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to review his case and no 11th-hour appeals were filed to try to stop the lethal injection.

Henry, a family acquaintance, confessed to the slaying to a police officer some 2 months after the killings over the Labor Day weekend in 1993 but subsequently denied involvement in the deaths.

"I kind of got suckered through the whole system," he said in an interview last week. "I'm getting a bum rap. You can't avoid it... I'm stuck."

The victims were stabbed and slashed with what authorities believed was a survivalist knife. Arnold's face was beaten so badly that a neighbor could not identify her except by jewelry and clothing.

"Asking him why would be redundant at this point," said Linda Callais, whose mother and grandmother were killed. "I'm not accepting any answers out of him. ... He couldn't say anything to change my mind or make me feel any better."

Henry becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas this year and the 311th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. It was the 1st execution in the state since Sept. 10, when Larry Hayes was executed.

The 2 1/2-month hiatus has been the most lengthy pause in capital punishment in Texas in some 7 years, although officials say the lull is probably a coincidence. 5 more Texas inmates are scheduled to die next month, and at least 6 more are on the execution calendar for early 2004.

While the pace of executions may have slowed somewhat, the number of convicted killers sentenced to die has not. At the same time during the past 2 1/2 months, at least 5 new capital murder convicts have been sent to Texas' death row, which now houses about 450 inmates.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Richard "Chuck" Duncan, 61, 2004-12-03, Texas

Convicted killer Richard Charles "Chuck" Duncan was executed tonight for the slayings of the parents of his boyfriend at their Houston home more than 16 years ago.

Testimony at his trial showed Duncan hoped to share the $500,000 life insurance of John High, 71, and High's 73-year-old wife, Ruth, to save the failing computer business he ran with the couple's son and another man.

"It was all about money," Harris County assistant district attorney Kelly Siegler, who prosecuted Duncan, said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review his case and no 11th-hour appeals were planned, Duncan's lawyer, Kevin Dunn, said Wednesday.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Ivan Murphy, Jr., 38, 2003-12-04, Texas

A former mechanic with an extensive criminal record in Oklahoma was executed tonight for fatally beating an 80-year-old woman he'd known since childhood.

Ivan Murphy, 38, was the 2nd convicted killer executed in as many nights in Texas.

"This is a celebration of life, not death," Murphy said in a brief final statement while strapped to the death chamber gurney. "Through Jesus Christ we have victory over death."

He thanked Pope John Paul II and others for prayers, love and support. "I want to thank everybody around the world and Father, let your will be done."

As the drugs began taking effect, he gasped several times. Ten minutes later, at 6:24 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Strawberry ice cream in a plastic bowl helped convict Murphy of the 1989 slaying of Lula Mae Denning at her home in Denison, about 70 miles north of Dallas and just south of the Texas-Oklahoma border.

"We dusted the inside of a Cool Whip bowl and found his fingerprint," said former Grayson County District Attorney Robert Jarvis, recalling evidence in Murphy's capital murder trial. "He told officers he hadn't been there in 20 years. He was lying about that."

Besides the fingerprint, jewelry taken from the victim was linked to Murphy and traces of the woman's blood were found on his clothes.

"I wasn't there," he insisted in a recent death-row interview. "No way I can be associated with this crime. I know I got framed."

All his appeals were exhausted, Murphy said Wednesday.

Murphy had a record for theft in Grayson County and was paroled in 1985 to McAlester, Okla., after serving 6 1/2 months of a three-year prison term. In Oklahoma, he had multiple convictions and prison terms for concealing stolen property, larceny of an automobile and grand larceny.

A week after the Denning slaying, he was arrested in Hugo, Okla., on two counts of shooting with intent to kill. Murphy said he was responding to someone who shot at him.

"I was wrong for having a gun," he said. "But that's what happens when you're weak. To me, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a case of bad luck. I know I didn't kill nobody. I'm not a killer."

A Murphy accomplice, Douglas Stoff, also was convicted in the slaying. He received a life term.

Police were summoned to Denning's home after she couldn't be reached by phone.

"I remember a little old lady sitting in her chair with her blood splattered all over the wall and the ceiling and dripping down on the newspaper," Jarvis said. "She died in her own chair in her own living room. It was horrible.

"They took either her cane and or a sawed-off shotgun they brought with them and just beat her as she sat in her chair."

The investigation showed Stoff and Murphy were at Stoff's house sniffing paint and doing drugs and went to Murphy's old neighborhood, where he was known as "Pee Wee," to rob her. According to Murphy's statement to police, they went to steal her purse and because she knew him, she invited them in and offered him the ice cream.

At some point, she was attacked and robbed of jewelry, including a $7,000wedding ring that another man said he bought the next morning from Murphy. Evidence also showed the attackers may have returned to the woman's house.

"Police took advantage of me because I was in a drunken stupor," Murphy said of his comments to officers who questioned him about the slaying.

"Why would we pick Ivan Ray Murphy to pin a murder on?" Jarvis asked, dismissing the inmate's claims. "I feel very confident we have the correct individual that did the crime. I don't have any problems with this verdict at all."

Wednesday night, 61-year-old Richard Duncan was put to death for killing an elderly Houston couple 16 years ago in a scheme to share their life insurance proceeds. 3 more Texas inmates are set to die on consecutive nights next week.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Robbie James Lyons, 31, 2003-12-05, North Carolina

A death row prisoner convicted for the fatal shooting of a Winston-Salem storekeeper was executed early Friday, hours after Gov. Mike Easley declined to commute his sentence.

Robbie James Lyons, 31, was pronounced dead at 2:17 a.m. after an injection at Central Prison in Raleigh, said Pam Walker, a Correction Department spokeswoman.

Lawyers for Lyons said they were relying on a clemency petition filed with Easley and wouldn't file last-minute court appeals. Easley said Thursday night he found no reason to reduce the sentence of Robbie James Lyons to life in prison.

"Having carefully reviewed the facts and circumstances of this crime and conviction, I find no convincing reason to grant clemency and overturn the unanimous jury verdict affirmed by the state and federal courts," Easley said in a news release.

Lyons was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death for the pistol slaying of Stephen Wilson Stafford. The victim was shot to death after he attempted to grab a pistol held by Lyons during an attempted robbery of Stafford's store on Sept. 25, 1993.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson had sent Easley a letter urging clemency for Lyons.

"I have the deepest sympathy for the victims of violent crime and their families and loved ones left behind - but the death penalty is not the best way to acknowledge their grief," the letter read.

Jackson said Lyons suffered frequent beatings as a youngster and at an early age was forced to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and use crack cocaine.

Easley met with lawyers for Lyons as well as prosecutors and Stafford's family on Wednesday to hear arguments for and against clemency.

Witnesses to the execution included Stafford's widow, Ramona, his two grown children and 2 other relatives. Lyons met with his relatives Thursday.

Ramona Stafford said Lyons showed no remorse over shooting her husband with a .22-caliber pistol.

Lyons' 2 state-appointed lawyers, Kirk Osborn and Ernest Conner, had argued that Lyons didn't have good legal representation when he was charged and tried and that he has a mental defect.

But Assistant District Attorney David Hall said Lyons had an IQ of 110 and was a violent individual, a fact he said was proven by the 50 disciplinary infractions Lyons had since coming to death row.

Lyons was put in solitary confinement after hitting a guard in the eye, Conner said, but that happened when Lyons was upset after being informed of his execution date and then a guard pushed him.

Lyons becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina, the most since 1949 when 10 people were put to death, and the 30th overall in the state since capital punishment was resumed there in 1984.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)