Death Penalty and Death Row in USA

Fight the Death
Penalty in USA

Information about individuals executed 2004

     Lorenzo Morris,, 2004-11-02, Texas

     Dominique Green, 2004-10-26, Texas

    Charles Roache,, 2004-10-22, North Carolina

    Ricky Morrow,, 2004-10-20, Texas

    Adremy Dennis 2004-10-13, Ohio

    Donald Aldrich ,, 2004-10-12, Texas

    Sammy Perkins,, 2004-10-09, North Carolina

Sammy Crystal Perkins acknowledged both his family and the uncle of the 7-year-old girl he was convicted of killing in 1993 before dying quietly by lethal injection early Friday.

In the small witness room at Central Prison in Raleigh, Perkins' brother, Martin Earl Perkins, and his niece, Kimberly Gorham, reached out toward the condemned man as he was wheeled into the death chamber at 1:50 a.m., 10 minutes before his scheduled execution by the state of North Carolina.

Gorham waved and pressed her palm to the window that separated the witness room from the death chamber. Martin Perkins pointed a fist toward his brother, his ring clinking against the double-paned glass.

Only about a foot on the other side of the glass, Sammy Perkins could have reached out to meet his brother's hand if he hadn't been restrained.

Instead, Perkins turned his head, offered a toothy smile and mouthed something to his brother, who leaned forward in his blue plastic chair.
Then Perkins turned back, his gaze drifting toward the ceiling, his head resting on a light blue pillow and his body covered from his feet to his shoulders with a light blue sheet.

Underneath the sheet, straps held down Perkins' ankles, wrists, thighs and chest and an IV needle rested in each arm, according to prison officials.

In the 2nd row of chairs in the witness room, Roderick "Hot Rod" Moore, the uncle of 7-year-old Lashenna "Jo Jo" Moore, shook his head and fought back tears.

Perkins was convicted in 1993 of raping and smothering Jo Jo Moore to death in her grandmother's Hopkins Drive home. He was dating Moore's grandmother at the time.

At 1:58 a.m., Moore sat up and waved both hands in the air to get Perkins' attention, jabbing his fingers toward himself when Perkins turned to look at him. Perkins nodded in acknowledgement.

Warden Marvin Polk briefly entered the darkened witness room and announced that, without further instructions from the state secretary of correction, the execution would proceed as scheduled.

Marvin Perkins and Gorham pressed their palms against the window.

Moore began waving at Perkins again, this time pointing upward with both hands until Perkins again nodded at him.

At 1 minute before 2 a.m., Perkins closed his eyes and began mouthing words to himself.

At 2 a.m., he opened his eyes, swallowed, and licked his lips, opening and closing his eyes for the next two minutes until he again turned toward the window.

He nodded at his relatives, took a deep breath, yawned and turned back toward the ceiling. His eyes closed, his tongue darted in and out of his mouth and then he went motionless.

Moore put his head in his hands.

"Oh God, Oh God," he said as Penny Warren, victim/witness coordinator for the Pitt County district attorney's office, put her arm around him.

For the next 11 minutes, many in the room silently comforted each other.

In the front row, one of Perkins' attorneys, Ed West, put his arm around fellow attorney Nora Hargrove. Gorham reached around Martin Perkins to take West's hand. Warren rubbed her hand against Moore's back.

Pitt County assistant district attorneys Kimberly Robb and Darth Akins, Greenville police Sgt. Joe Friday and retired Greenville police detective Ricky Best sat quietly.

At 2:14 a.m., a curtain was drawn across the window, blocking Perkins from view.

A few seconds later, Polk entered the room.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the orders of the court have been carried out. He was pronounced dead at 2:14 a.m.," Polk announced.

Outside the prison gates, about 20 death penalty opponents had gathered to hold a vigil.

Among those was Steve Woolford of Chatham County. Woolford, who has been attending vigils for the past couple years, said he had been corresponding via letters with Perkins since Perkins had been in prison and visited him few times.

"Its especially hard to be out here tonight since its his last night," Woolford said.

Perkins' final statement, which he made to Polk shortly before being wheeled into the death chamber, was directed toward his family:

"I would like to say I love my mother, all my brothers and sisters and all my children. I'll see y'all on the other side. Thank you."

More than a dozen members of Perkins' family, who visited with him between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. Thursday, left the prison without comment.

It wasnt until after 5 p.m. Thursday, when the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on 2 appeals and Gov. Mike Easley had denied clemency, that Perkins became sure of his fate.

In one court ruling, justices lifted, with a 5-4 vote, a stay of execution that had been issued by a federal judge last week to allow Perkins time to contest the state of North Carolina's method of execution.

In the other, the high court ruled unanimously not to reverse state court rulings against Perkins on contested trial issues.

Perkins, the second person executed in North Carolina this year, was the 1st to die from a new protocol for lethal injection recently adopted by the state.

The new protocol changed the amount and order of the chemicals used.
Officials with the state Department of Correction said the change allows for more anesthetic to be used as the death unfolds. A court challenge had claimed the previous method left the possibility for the condemned to feel pain during execution.

Perkins becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 32nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1984.

(sources: The Daily Reflector & Rick Halperin)

    Peter Miniel ,42 , 2004-10-06, Texas

For years, Peter J. Miniel, who died earlier this evening by injection, insisted he was innocent in the 1986 slaying of Paul Manier. He recently admitted his guilt and expressed his regret to the victim's family.

Condemned inmate Peter Miniel was executed Wednesday evening for the beating and stabbing death of a Houston man 18 years ago.

"Into your hands, oh Lord, I commence my spirit. Amen. I'm ready," Miniel said in a brief statement. As the drugs began taking effect, he said he felt a burning sensation. Then he gasped and sputtered before losing consciousness. 10 minutes later, at 6:22 p.m, CDT, he was pronounced dead.

He never made contact with any of the witnesses, including the parents and two brothers of his victim.

Miniel, 42, had welcomed the execution and asked his attorney to file no more appeals.

"I'm ready for them to get me," Miniel said in a recent interview. "I'm ready to pay the price."

Miniel becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 328th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Miniel becomes the 89th condemned inmate to be put to death during the tenure of Governor Rick Perry.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

    Edward "Peanut" Green III, 30, 2004-10-05

A Texas man was put to death by lethal injection on Tuesday for killing an elderly Houston couple in a 1992 robbery.

The execution came after a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed and just days after lawmakers proposed a halt in executions in the area owing to problems with the examination of evidence by the Houston Police Department.

Edward Green III, 30, was condemned for killing Edward Haden, 72, and Helen O'Sullivan, 63, who were sitting in O'Sullivan's car on Aug. 31, 1992 at a stop sign when Green ordered Haden out of the vehicle at gunpoint.

When Haden didn't respond quickly enough, Green fired 3 shots through the car window, hitting Haden twice and O'Sullivan once.

2 Democratic state senators from Harris County asked Republican Gov. Rick Perry to impose a moratorium on executions of prisoners convicted there after Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt called for a halt until a review of hundreds of boxes of evidence found in a police warehouse this summer is completed.

Perry rejected the request on Monday. A spokeswoman for the governor said procedures in place to review individual death row cases offered adequate safeguards for condemned prisoners.

A Texas state court also rejected a request for a stay made by Green's attorneys seeking a review of evidence in the case. Green had confessed to the crime.

Harris County, of which Houston is the greater part, sentences more people to death than any other county in the United States. It currently has 162 inmates on Texas death row.

At least one person has been freed and 40 other convictions are under scrutiny because of the police department's poor work, officials have said.

A late appeal on Tuesday to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay delayed Green's execution for 2 hours.

In a final statement while strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Green apologized to Haden's and O'Sullivan's relatives.

"I come with no hate in my heart or bitterness," he said. "To my family and to you people, I can only apologize for all the pain I caused you. May God forgive us this day."

Green was the 14th person executed in Texas this year and the 327th since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, 6 years after the U.S.
Supreme Court lifted a national death penalty ban. Both totals lead the nation.

Texas has 10 more executions scheduled for this year, 7 of which are convicts from the Houston area. The next execution is scheduled for Wednesday night.

(source: Reuters)

    Andrew Flores ,,2004-09-21, Texas

     David Kevin Hocker, 33, 2004-09-30, Alabama

David Kevin Hocker said a final prayer and was put to death Thursday for the 1998 stabbing death of his boss.

Hocker, 33, refused to file appeals of his conviction, saying he was guilty and wanted to die for his crime.

"I swear by you, Lord Jesus Christ my savior that my time should be no longer. The mystery of life shall be finished. Amen," Hocker said when Holman prison warden Grantt Culliver asked if he had any final words.

Hocker, strapped to a hospital gurney, then said a few quiet words to officers standing beside him in the execution chamber at Holman Prison and stared at the ceiling as he was injected with the combination of drugs that ended his life.

Hocker did not look at the witness room, about 15 feet away, where his mother sobbed quietly as she watched her son die.

Looking pale with his hands balled into fists, Hocker straightened his body several times. After a few moments he closed his eyes and appeared to lose consciousness.

Hocker's mother, Patricia Yeomans, did not talk to reporters after the execution, but released a statement saying her son had found peace on death row after a troubled life of mental problems and drug abuse.

"Once Kevin started reading the Bible his anger just disappeared. He became positive about his life," Yeomans said.

Hocker was convicted and sentenced to death for the March 21, 1998, stabbing death and robbery of Jerry Wayne Robinson, 47, of Columbia in Houston County.

Yeomans had made arrangements for a Daphne funeral home to pick up her son's body after forensic examinations are completed.

Hocker did not attempt to file any appeals in the final days leading up to Thursday night's execution and did not ask Gov. Bob Riley for clemency.

No members of Robinson's family attended the execution. Hocker's stepfather, George Larry Yeomans, sat beside Patricia Yeomans and put his arm on her shoulder and comforted her during the execution.

Hocker spent two and a half hours Thursday visiting with his mother and stepfather. Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Hocker was mostly upbeat during the day and asked corrections officers questions about how the execution would be carried out.

Hocker refused to eat anything during the day Thursday. He had requested a last meal but he refused to eat when the meal was presented to him at about 2:30 Thursday afternoon, Corbett said.

He left his mother and stepfather assorted food items and a check for 87 cents, the amount of money he had left in an account prisoners use to buy snacks and other items, Corbett said. Hocker also gave a radio and headset and food items to death row inmate Rayford Hagood.

Hocker, who had been living in a Dothan motel, was accused of shooting Robinson as he sat in a truck in Headland and dumping Robinson's body in neighboring Henry County. Hocker had been working for Robinson's structural steel detailing company. He used the victim's bank card to get cash to purchase $400 worth of crack cocaine and later turned himself in at the Mobile County Sheriff's Department.

During his trial 4 years ago, Hocker admitted killing Robinson. "I'm guilty," he told the judge.

Hocker's initial appeal was rejected by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. He then filed court documents waiving his right to further appeals.

Hocker's mother told The Birmingham News earlier this week that her son had a long history of mental health problems, drug use and crime before he killed Robinson. She said Hocker's father committed suicide when her son was 8 years old.

Hocker's sister, Kim Osborn, a speech pathologist, told The News that her brother was looking forward to dying. She said he had adopted a form of Christianity that's led him to believe he'll be a leader in the afterlife.

Osborn told The News this belief led her brother to castrate himself in his death-row cell to control sexual urges.

Corbett said Hocker received outside medical treatments twice in 2003, but because of privacy laws he said he could not say why he was treated.

Hocker was the 2nd death row inmate executed in Alabama this year and the 30th since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

Hocker was the 6th Alabama inmate executed since the state switched its primary method of execution from the electric chair to lethal injection in 2002.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Andrew Flores, 32, 2004-09-21, Texas

Contrite condemned killer Andrew Flores, 32, was executed this evening for fatally shooting a San Antonio convenience store clerk during a $45 robbery 11 years ago.

"Today I go home to the Lord," he said in a brief last statement. "But first I have to say something."

"I am real sorry," he said, looking at the wife of his victim. "I took a family member's life and I shouldn't have. I hope that you can move on.
I'm just sorry. I can't bring anyone back. I would if I could. I won't ask for your forgiveness. God will be my judge."

Flores then turned and expressed his love to his friends and relatives, including his sobbing mother and sister.

"Be strong and I will see you all, hopefully not soon. Keep your head up," he said.

After taking a couple of deep breaths and gasping, he slipped into unconsciousness. 9 minutes later at 6:20 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

The U.S. Supreme Court in April refused to review his case and the inmate's lawyer said there were no legal avenues left to pursue. On Friday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a commutation request.

Flores pleaded guilty to gunning down John Moreno, 23, whose July 1993 murder was captured on videotape by a surveillance camera at the San Antonio store where he worked.

Flores and a companion were recognized after the tape was aired on San Antonio television stations. They were arrested within hours of the shooting. At the time, Flores was on probation for car theft and had other arrests for theft and weapons violations.

He confessed to the crime and gave to authorities cash taken in the robbery and the .22-caliber handgun used in the slaying.

During the punishment phase of the trial, witnesses were told how Flores, who picked up the street name "Showtime," led a San Antonio gang where he recruited 4th-graders to fight and steal for him. Among the witnesses was a 14-year-old girl who told of how Flores and other gang members had tried to rape her.

Jurors also were shown the video, which shows Moreno emptying the cash register but balking at surrendering his keys. Moreno gets on his knees begging for his life and Flores shoots him in the head and runs from the store. Then he returned moments later to go through the victim's pockets in search of car keys.

"It's fair to say the jury really had no choice but to reach this verdict," Mike Cohen, the Bexar County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Flores, said. "It was pretty brutal and senseless."

Flores' partner, Joseph Fritz, was convicted of capital murder for being the lookout during the robbery and received a life prison term. Testimony at his trial indicated they couldn't drive off in Moreno's car because Flores took the wrong keys from the dying man's pocket.

Cohen speculated Moreno was reluctant to surrender his keys because he and his wife had only that one car and it was needed to take their then 10-month-old daughter for frequent medical treatment.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in a statement protesting today's punishment, argued Flores had a history of mental illness and that lawyers failed to inform jurors of his mental problems brought on by alcohol abuse and physical and sexual abuse suffered as a child.

While the Supreme Court has barred execution of the mentally retarded, the same prohibition has not been extended to those considered mentally ill.

The abuse allegations and questions about the competence of his trial attorneys were raised in earlier unsuccessful appeals.

Flores becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 326th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Flores becomes the 87th condemned inmate to be put to death since Rick Perry became Governor in 2001.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     James Allridge, 41, 2004-08-26, Texas

In Huntsville, condemned prisoner James Allridge, whose case attracted the attention of celebrity capital punishment opponents, was executed Thursday evening for killing a Fort Worth convenience store clerk 19 years ago.

Allridge, 41, was the 2nd Texas inmate to be executed in as many nights.

Allridge was visited last month by actress Susan Sarandon, who purchased some of his prison-made artwork and for years corresponded with him.

Sarandon, 57, won an Academy Award in 1996 for her portrayal of death penalty opponent Helen Prejean in the movie version of the New Orleans-based nun's book "Dead Man Walking." Prejean was among the people Allridge selected to watch him die.

Allridge's attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-day appeal to halt the punishment and review the case, contending he'd been a model prisoner for years and his rehabilitation disproved his trial jury's finding that he'd be a continuing threat to society, one of the criteria for the death penalty in Texas. The appeal was denied.

"When our criminal justice system is on the verge of executing a prisoner who is innocent of the aggravating factor on which his death sentence is predicated future dangerousness the Texas system provides no remedy," their petition to the high court Thursday said. "The primary premise for executing Mr. Allridge, by virtue of his rehabilitation during his lengthy incarceration, has evaporated."

They also argued jurors were not allowed to consider evidence that a violent and abusive older brother bullied Allridge into participating in the fatal shooting of store clerk Brian Clendennen, 21, who was robbed of $300.

Allridge's brother, Ronald, was put to death in 1995 for killing a woman during the robbery of a Fort Worth fast-food restaurant, part of a 2-month crime spree that targeted convenience stores and fast-food places.

Unlike his brother, who also had served time for killing a classmate at age 15, the crime wave appeared to be out of character for James Allridge, who had no previous criminal record. He was described as a good student and hard worker but someone who fell under the control and demands of an older violent brother who intimidated him.

"My brother didn't even have a chance at life," the victim's brother, Shane Clendennen, who also was to witness the execution, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "People who say the death penalty is wrong haven't gone through this... All I have is a picture and a grave site."

"I am deeply regretful any of this has happened," Allridge told The Associated Press last week from death row, adding that he would like to express his sentiments to Clendennen's relatives. "This should never have happened."

Allridge, however, said he believed his nearly two decades on death row was beneficial to others.

"I know I've done a lot of good," he said. "A lot of young guys here never had positive role models. A lot of times they just want someone to listen to them. I listen."

Two other sets of brothers have received lethal injection in Texas, which by far leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty. Prison records show four pairs of brothers were put to death in the 1920s and 1930s, when the electric chair was the method of punishment.

On Wednesday, Jasen Shane Busby, 28, of Tyler, received lethal injection evening for the slayings of a pair of teenage girls in East Texas in 1995.
At least 11 other Texas inmates have execution dates through the end of this year.

Allridge becomes the 12th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 325th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on January 17, 1977. He is also the 86th condemned inmate to be put to death during the tenure of Governor Rick Perry.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Windel Ray Workman, 46, 2004-08-26, Oklahoma

Windel Ray Workman was executed by lethal injection Thursday for the 1987 beating death of his live-in girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Workman died at 6:08 p.m. after receiving a fatal cocktail of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He became the 158th person executed in state history.

Workman, 46, was convicted in Oklahoma County and sentenced to die for the Jan. 10, 1987, killing of Amanda Holman, who had bruises on her face, chest, back and buttocks.

Workman maintained his innocence and claimed the bruises were caused by Amanda's falls from her bed and in the bathtub. Later, he claimed that either Amanda's mom or grandmother were at fault.

But the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver denied Workman's last-ditch efforts to save himself Thursday, rejecting his claims of innocence and inadequate trial defense.

He did not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had denied clemency Aug. 5.

Three doctors who treated or examined Amanda, who died of blunt head trauma, said her injuries were consistent with being hit by a fist, a hard object or being slammed into a wall, court records say.

Testimony, including Workman's, indicated he had sole custody of the girl during the time her injuries occurred. Court records show he had a history of abusing the child.

Workman becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 76th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Oklahoma trails only Texas (325) and Virginia (93) in the numbers of executions since America re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Jasen Shane Busby, , 2004-08-25, Texas

Condemned inmate Jasen Shane Busby was executed today for the fatal shooting of 2 teenage girls more than 9 years ago in Cherokee County in East Texas.

About 2 1/2 hours before he was scheduled to be strapped to the death house gurney, the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, rejected a last-day appeal that attempted to keep Busby, 28, of Tyler, from becoming the 11th Texas prisoner executed this year and the 1st of 2 on consecutive nights at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.

James Vernon Allridge, 41, was set for lethal injection Thursday evening for the fatal shooting of a Fort Worth convenience store clerk in 1985.

Busby was arrested within an hour after cousins Tennille Thompson, 18, and Brandy Gray, 16, were gunned down at a mobile home in Antioch, just west of Jacksonville. A 3rd person, Christopher Kelley, then 18, was shot in the neck but managed to call for help. He identified Busby as the gunman and testified against him.

Busby was caught with Kelley's red pickup truck. Ammunition from the assault rifle used in the slayings was scattered in the back of the truck.

Records showed he told an officer the "devil made me do it."

"He made a bad choice, and bad choices cost pretty dearly sometimes," James Cromwell, the now-retired Cherokee County district attorney who prosecuted Busby, said this week.

Court records also showed Busby and the victims had been partying for several hours and had smoked marijuana. Busby, who was 19 at the time, gave a confession to police but argued later in appeals that his statement was the result of drug intoxication. The courts rejected the argument.

Busby declined to speak with reporters in the weeks leading up to his execution date.

In letters he wrote to friends while in jail awaiting trial, he described the slayings in graphic detail. In unsuccessful appeals, he contended authorities improperly viewed and made copies of the letters.

"His letters, his confession, the testimony of the eyewitness, we had a lot of evidence," Cromwell said. "The facts fit the need for the death penalty and the state sought the death penalty. We didn't make up the facts."

In similar appeals to the courts, attorneys for both Busby and Allridge challenged the way Texas juries decide death penalties.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the claims, sending the cases into the federal courts.

Defense lawyers argued a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June in a Washington state case makes improper the question of whether convicted murderers present a future danger. It's one of the questions Texas jurors are asked when they consider whether a capital murder convict should be sentenced to death.

The appeals also contended a life prison term is the maximum sentence a judge can impose if a jury can't agree on the so-called special issue questions that can lead to a death sentence. But the appeals argued a death sentence based on a jury's answers to those questions is a "tail that wags the dog" escalation of the statutory maximum sentence and improper under recent Supreme Court decisions.

In addition, lawyers for Allridge, whose brother, Ronald, was executed in 1995 for the slaying of a woman during a restaurant robbery in Fort Worth, contended he's been rehabilitated during his 17 years in prison and executing him after his rehabilitation would be improper cruel and unusual punishment.

Allridge's lawyers also argued jurors deliberating his punishment were not allowed to properly consider his abusive childhood and his domination by his violent older brother.

Allridge was condemned for the slaying of store clerk Brian Clendennen, 21, during a $300 robbery in Fort Worth. Ronald Allridge drove the getaway car.

The former furniture builder and restaurant manager said last week from death row he's long regretted his involvement in the slaying and the grief it caused his victim's family.

"If I could say anything, it would be how sorry I am that any of this had to be part of their lives," he said. "I'm sorry. I know those sound like the two most trifling words you could ever say. As insignificant as they were, they were sincere."

Busby becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 324th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Busby becomes the 85th condemned inmate to be put to death during the tenure of Governor Rick Perry.

(source: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     James Hudson,57, 2004-08-18, Virginia

A Halifax County man who pleaded guilty to killing 3 neighbors in a long-running dispute over a driveway was executed Wednesday night.

James Bryant Hudson, 57, died by lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt at 9:07 p.m.

Hudson shuffled to the gurney with the help of 2 guards, who supported him under his arms. He was wearing a light blue button-down shirt and dark blue pants. His gray hair was neatly combed.

When asked if he had any final words, Hudson said in a clear voice, "No sir."

The inmate did not meet with any family or his attorneys on Wednesday.

Hudson pleaded guilty to shooting brothers Walter Stanley Cole, 56, and Thomas Wesley Cole, 64, and Wesley's wife, Patsy Ayers Cole, 64, outside their Halifax County home in July 2002.

Hudson gave up his final appeals and did not file a petition for clemency with Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner. Warner issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying he would not intervene in the execution.

The acrimonious dispute over the driveway Hudson and the Cole brothers shared began after Hudson's father sold a parcel of land to the Coles 5 miles from the North Carolina border, said Hudson's attorney, Buddy Ward.

Ward said Hudson maintained the right to use a road that ran through the Coles' property to get to his home, but he frequently complained that the Coles were not taking care of it.

Former Halifax Commonwealth's Attorney John Greenbacker, who prosecuted the case, said the Coles were driving along the road on July 3, 2002, when they encountered Hudson's truck blocking the way. A farm worker testified that Hudson and Wesley Cole exchanged words, then Hudson grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun out of his truck and shot Stanley Cole as he sat in the front seat.

Wesley Cole tried to flee, but tripped and fell in a ditch. Hudson shot him in the back of the head.

Greenbacker said Hudson then drove to Wesley Cole's house next door and found his wife, Patsy, gardening. A neighbor testified that Patsy Cole called out to Hudson and Hudson opened fire.

He drove off and was arrested after a 23-hour manhunt.

Hudson refused to allow Ward to call any witnesses at his trial. He was convicted of two counts of capital murder for killing the Cole brothers, and one count of first-degree murder for killing Patsy Cole.

Stanley Cole owned the South Boston Livestock Market for more than 20 years and was president of the Percheron Horse Association of Virginia. He was also a cattle and tobacco farmer.

Wesley Cole was a retired plant manager for Burlington Industries and Patsy Cole was a retired medical lab technologist.

Hudson's execution was the fourth in Virginia this year and the 93rd since the state resumed executions in 1982 following a 20-year hiatus. Because Hudson gave up his final appeals, he was only on death row for only 16 months. The Department of Corrections said the average length of time for inmates on death row prior to execution is 7.1 years.

Hudson becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 93rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Virginia trails only Texas (323) in the number of executions since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Terry Dennis,, 2004-08-12, Nevada

     James Barney Hubbard, 74, 2004-08-05, Alabama

A 74-year-old condemned murderer was executed Thursday after courts and the governor refused to prevent him from becoming the oldest U.S. inmate put to death in decades.

James Barney Hubbard died by lethal injection at 6:36 p.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore.

Hubbard was executed for the 1977 murder of 62-year-old Lillian Montgomery of Tuscaloosa. She was shot in the head and robbed after befriending Hubbard, who had been released from prison after serving 19 years for a 1957 killing.

Hubbard becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama, and the 29th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

Alabama's Oldest Death Row Inmate Executed -- Hubbard Convicted Of 1977 Killing

NBC News, August 05, 2004

James Barney Hubbard, the state's oldest death row inmate, died by lethal injection at 6:36 p.m. on Thursday at Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala.

Hubbard was executed for the 1977 killing of 62-year-old Lillian Montgomery, a Tuscaloosa woman who befriended him after he served a prison sentence for another killing.

In the last week, Hubbard had turned to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court refused to block his execution.

The 74-year-old convicted murderer filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-to-1 vote denied his request for a stay.

Hubbard had asked the Supreme Court to stop his execution because he is too old and sick to be put to death. The Supreme Court denied his motion on a 5-to-4 vote. Moments later, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley announced he would not intervene in the execution.

Hubbards lawyers argued that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment for their client who had developed cancer, emphysema, hepatitis and dementia during his 27 years in prison.

Groups that track and oppose the death penalty said Hubbard would be the oldest inmate executed in the United States since 1941 if the lethal injection was carried out.

Hubbards victim, Lillian Montgomery, ran a store and gas station in Tuscaloosa for most of her life. She had hired Hubbard to pump gas in 1976 when he was paroled from prison, after serving 19 years for a previous murder. He was released early for good behavior.

"I read in the paper this guy is sick. He's taking a dozen medicines, he's just barely living. If he's that sick, I'd be wanting to get out of this world," said Jimmy Montgomery, son of Hubbard's victim.

"I don't have any sympathy for him," said Jimmy Montgomery. "If he dies tonight, he'll get exactly what he deserves, and I hope he feels some of the pain and misery he has put me and my family through for the past 30 years."

However, Jimmy Montgomery's bother, Johnny, has been able to forgive Hubbard.

"God forgave me of my sins, I have to forgive James Hubbard," said Johnny Montgomery. "I have to forgive whoever sins against me, not that I condone what his actions are."

A spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley said his office had received more than 100 requests to stop Hubbard's execution, but most of those requests had come from out of the state and out of the country.

Alabama executes aging inmate for 1977 murder

Associated Press, August 05, 2004

A 74-year-old condemned murderer was executed Thursday after courts and the governor refused to prevent him from becoming the oldest U.S. inmate put to death in decades.

James Barney Hubbard died by lethal injection at 6:36 p.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore.

Hubbard, who had been Alabama's oldest death row inmate, was executed for the 1977 murder of 62-year-old Lillian Montgomery of Tuscaloosa. She was shot in the head and robbed after befriending Hubbard, who had been released from prison after serving 19 years for a 1957 killing.

Montgomery's son, Jimmy Montgomery, witnessed the execution along with his wife, aunt and niece. He said he was disappointed that Hubbard offered no last words or apology for the Montgomery family.

"I didn't expect him to go as easy as he did today without saying something," Jimmy Montgomery said, adding that he did not forgive Hubbard and believed he deserved a harsher form of death. "He looked like he was quite comfortable on that gurney."

A pale, white-haired Hubbard maintained eye contact with his daughter Barbara McKinney, who witnessed the execution from another room, until he died. His attorney, Alan Rose of Boston, and spiritual adviser, John Courtney, also attended.

In the hours leading up to his execution, Hubbard spent time with at least 8 visitors, mostly from a prison ministry group called Kairos.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny a stay of execution for Hubbard, whose attorney contended it would amount to cruel and unusual punishment to execute an inmate so old and mentally incompetent.

He had also asked for a commuted sentence from Gov. Bob Riley, who after the Supreme Court's decision said he would not block the execution. He said Hubbard had committed a "heinous and violent" crime.

"Justice has not been swift in this case, but justice must be delivered," Riley said.

Rose, who has represented Hubbard for 16 years, said no one Hubbard's age or older had been executed in the United States in 63 years. After the execution, Rose said he was disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling, saying the court should have "resolved" the issue of executing incompetent offenders. In the past, courts in the 5th, 6th and 11th circuits have ruled differently in the issue.

In his filing with the Supreme Court, Rose said that "Hubbard's age-based execution claim appears to raise a novel issue," but added that it is in line with claims of cruel and unusual punishment made by others "based upon their status."

The state, in response, said the age and dementia claims should have been made earlier and are now barred by law.

"Murderers especially repeat killers like Hubbard do not deserve 'leniency' merely because their life of crime does not result in the imposition of a death sentence until later in life," the state's response said.

Hubbard, in his federal appeals, said he didn't speak up about his mental state and health sooner because the conditions were related to his aging and didn't exist when he was younger. Court filings on his behalf say he has been diagnosed with dementia, along with other ailments.

The state's response said dementia does not automatically mean a person is mentally incompetent and that Hubbard had not sought mental treatment during his recent decades as a condemned inmate.

Hubbard appealed to the high court Wednesday after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 vote denied the request for a stay. In the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision, the stay was denied by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer would have granted the stay.

Records from the Death Penalty Information Center show Hubbard is the oldest U.S. prisoner put to death since executions resumed in 1977 with approval of the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hubbard is the oldest person executed in the United States since 1941, when James Stephens of Colorado was executed at age 76.

     Mark W. Bailey, 34,2004-07-22, Virginia

Condemned killer Mark W. Bailey was put to death Thursday night for the slayings of his wife and 2-year-old son.

Bailey received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center and was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m.

Asked by warden George Hinkle if he had any final words, Bailey said in a clear, strong voice, "No, thank you."

Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday evening had denied Bailey's request for clemency, noting that his case had been reviewed by several courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously denied Bailey's appeal on Wednesday.

Bailey used a .22-caliber pistol to shoot his wife, Katherine, 3 times in the head as she slept early on Sept. 10, 1998, in their Hampton home. He gunned down his son, Nathan, moments later as the child climbed out of bed.

Bailey, 34, claimed he suffered from manic depression and was severely depressed at the time of the slayings because his marriage was on the rocks.

A clinical psychologist testified that Bailey also suffered from borderline personality disorder and that impulsive acts are a symptom of the illness.

Bailey said in a videotaped confession that after killing his wife he washed blood off his face. He said he cut the bathroom window screen and outside telephone line to make it look like his family had been killed by an intruder.

The Gulf War veteran and submariner in the Navy was convicted of capital murder in July 1999.

Veterans group and Bailey's parents had appealed to Warner to commute the sentence to life in prison without parole.

"What he has done was a horrible thing but it can do no good for anyone if he should be executed," Myron and Bonnie Bailey wrote.

Bailey becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia this year and the 92nd since the state resumed executions in 1982 following a 20-year hiatus. Only Texas, with 323, has executed more.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Scott A. Mink, 2004-07-20, Ohio

A Miami Valley man who killed his parents has been executed in Lucasville.

Scott Mink was pronounced dead just after 10 this morning.

Mink pleaded guilty to killing his parents 4 years ago because they hid the keys to his truck to keep him from buying drugs. He then dropped all his appeals.

This morning, Mink decided against a last meal and instead smoked cigarettes and drank coffee.

Mink pleaded guilty to killing his parents during a night of drinking and doing drugs on Sept. 19, 2000. He beat William and Sheila Mink until the ball-peen hammer broke and struck them with cutting boards and stabbed them with kitchen knives.

Mink, who lived with his parents, was enraged that they had hidden the keys to his truck to keep him from buying drugs.

After the killings, Mink bought crack cocaine by selling his parents' possessions, including pictures off the walls of the upstairs duplex where the three lived in the community of Union, just northwest of Dayton. 4 days later, Mink turned himself in to police and confessed.

After pleading guilty in 2001, Mink asked a three-judge panel in Montgomery County to sentence him to death. "I do ask for the death penalty, to be handed a sentence of death," he told the panel just before the sentence.

However, he later appealed, arguing that 2 psychologists who examined him at trial were not qualified to determine he was competent to reject help from lawyers and plead guilty.

In April, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld Mink's conviction and death sentence. The justices ruled unanimously that Mink was competent when he rejected attorney help, entered his plea and declined to present any evidence to argue instead for a lesser sentence of life in prison.

Last week, defense attorney Gary Crim told the Ohio Parole Board that Mink wished for no further actions to stop his execution.

"I think that his life since he woke up after he sobered up and was arrested is full of remorse," Crim said. "That's his way of remorse, seeking execution."

Mink's execution is the quickest an Ohio inmate's death sentence was carried out since the state restored the death penalty in 1981.

Mink becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Ohio and the 14th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.

(sources: WHIO TV News, Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Eddie Albert Crawford, 57, 2004-07-19, Georgia

A Spalding County man was executed Monday for the 1983 kidnapping, sexual assault and strangulation of his 2-year-old niece, whom he then dumped in nearby woods.

Eddie Albert Crawford, 57, was pronounced dead at 7:49 p.m., 12 minutes after prison officials administered a lethal dose of drugs through his veins and after 20 years on death row, 2 trials and a 7-month delay since his execution was originally scheduled for December.

Crawford was convicted in 1984 for the murder of 29-month-old Leslie Michelle English.

After the injection, Crawford took a deep breath, gulped and yawned. His breathing grew progressively shallow before he died.

In his final words, Crawford said, "There hasn't been a time in the last 21 years I wouldn't have laid down my life for little Leslie. I don't remember anything. But if this will give them peace, it [the lethal injection] was well worth it."

Another of Leslie's uncles, Sammy English, witnessed the execution on behalf of the family.

About 25 friends and family of the girl gathered outside the prison, where they cheered and clapped as a van brought out Crawford's body after the execution.

"I don't think there will ever be final closure," said Peggy English Ridgeway, a cousin of Leslie's. "I don't think there ever is when you lose a child. But I do think it eases the pain in their hearts."

About 15 anti-death penalty demonstrators also gathered outside the prison.

Lawyers for Crawford raised last-minute doubts about his guilt. Former O.J. Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, argued unsuccessfully to have several pieces of evidence taken from the crime scene tested for the presence of DNA.

But William T. McBroom, the top prosecutor for Spalding County, dismissed the appeals as a "ploy" to spare a guilty man's life.

Crawford was connected to the girl's death by hair and carpet fibers found on her body, eyewitness statements and conflicting accounts he gave to police.

Authorities say Crawford killed Leslie as revenge against her mother -- his sister-in-law -- who had spurned Crawford's sexual advance the night before the murder.

The Georgia Supreme Court stopped Crawford's execution just hours before it was to be carried out last December.

Crawford's lawyers were hoping a post-conviction DNA testing law passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2003 would allow them to test a baby blanket, sheets, a pair of trousers and other items taken from the crime scene.

But in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Crawford case failed to meet one of the guidelines required by the new law: the possibility that DNA evidence could change the outcome of a guilty verdict. The court ruled that other evidence presented at Crawford's trial was enough to secure a conviction.

McBroom, the prosecutor, said he has no doubts Crawford killed Leslie. McBroom said he had DNA tests done recently that matched a blood stain on a shirt worn by Crawford with DNA taken from Leslie's hair.

Scheck said he was seeking new, more sophisticated DNA tests of the hairs that are not available in Georgia crime labs. He said not testing the evidence further was "unconscionable."

"I don't know whether Eddie Crawford is guilty or innocent," Scheck said a few hours before the execution. "But I do know for certain there are DNA tests that are not being performed that might demonstrate that proposition [of innocence]."

Crawford becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 36th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

(sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution & Rick Halperin)

     Stephen Vrabel, 47, 2004-07-14, Ohio

In Lucasville, a man was executed Wednesday after asking to be killed for shooting his girlfriend and their daughter, then refrigerating their bodies for a month in their apartment.

Stephen Vrabel, 47, was the 2nd Ohio death row inmate since 1999 to drop his appeals to speed his execution. He was pronounced dead at 10:14 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

"I'd rather be dead than be alive in prison," Vrabel, who had initially been found incompetent to stand trial, said in an interview Friday.

Gov. Bob Taft on Monday declined to stop Vrabel's scheduled execution. The Ohio Parole Board had voted earlier against recommending clemency.

Vrabel shot Susan Clemente, 29, his girlfriend of about 4 years, and their daughter, 3-year-old Lisa Clemente, in March 1989 at their apartment in the Youngstown suburb of Struthers.

Vrabel never said why he shot Susan Clemente. He said he shot their daughter - whom he described as a "perfect child" - in part because she was "freaking out" about her mother's death.

After the shootings, Vrabel placed Clemente's body in the refrigerator and Lisa's in the freezer along with her favorite stuffed animals.

A relative of Clemente's found the bodies after about a month when he went to the apartment to collect overdue rent. Vrabel confessed to a priest and then to police.

After being deemed incompetent to stand trial, Vrabel spent 5 years at a psychiatric center. Vrabel was then ruled competent to stand trial in 1995 and was convicted of 2 counts of aggravated murder. Vrabel's attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to show that he was insane, and his appeal had centered in part on whether he was competent to stand trial.

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld Vrabel's death sentence by a 4-3 vote last year.

Vrabel becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Ohio, and the 13th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Robert Karl Hicks, 47, 2004-07-01, Georgia

A convicted rapist who fatally stabbed a woman 9 months after he was released from prison was executed on Thursday in Georgia after courts rejected last-minute appeals. Robert Hicks, 47, was put to death by lethal injection at a state prison in Jackson, Ga., about 50 miles south of Atlanta. He died at 5 p.m. EDT, according to Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Peggy Chapman.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Thursday to block the execution.

"I'm sorry for my part in all of this," Hicks said in final statement before a sedative, lung-paralyzing drug and the poison potassium chloride were injected into his arms.

Hicks was sentenced to die for killing 28-year-old Toni Rivers in 1985. Her partially nude body was found in a field in Griffin, Ga., about 35 miles south of Atlanta. She was stabbed 8 times with a pocket knife, and her throat slit.

Prosecutors said Hicks committed the crime after following the woman home from a grocery store. The murder weapon and items belonging to the victim were found in his car shortly after the murder, according to witnesses at his trial.

Hicks, who had been released from prison in 1984 after serving less than half of a 15-year sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl, pleaded insanity during his murder trial. He later said that somebody else killed Rivers.

Hicks becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia this year and the 35th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)

     David Ray Harris, 2004-06-29, Texas

"Sir, in honor of a true American hero: Let's roll," Harris said when asked if he had a final statement. By echoing the words of a passenger before he and others attacked the hijackers of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, possibly causing the jet to crash before reaching its intended target in Washington, Harris apparently wanted to sound heroic.

But Harris was no hero. He was a cold-blooded killer who also almost caused the execution of Randall Dale Adams, an innocent Ohioan Harris helped frame for the 1st of 2 murders we know Harris committed at a young age.

Only because Adams had good trial attorneys whose objections to the actions in the kangaroo court that convicted him and an appeals attorney who exploited those objections to the hilt was Adams' life saved by the U.S. Supreme Court 3 days before his scheduled execution in 1979.

Prosecutors asked that the Ohioan's sentence be commuted to life in prison rather than face the possibility of retrying Adams, who had no prior record, for the 1976 murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood. They knew Adams would probably walk free if tried again for a murder it was increasingly apparent he did not commit, so they settled for letting him rot in jail instead of frying him.

When Erroll Morris' acclaimed 1988 documentary, The Thin Blue Line, finally ripped the evidence against Adams to shreds and ended his film with a dramatic statement from Harris in which he essentially confessed to the crime, international public pressure finally forced the Texas court system to release Adams, who flew back to Columbus a hero for enduring his nightmare with dignity, faith and courage.

But Harris wasn't "Texecuted" for the murder of Officer Wood. His life was ended for the 1985 murder of Mark Mays after Harris tried to abduct Mays' girlfriend.

And therein lies the second outrage that resulted in putting Adams on death row for a murder he didn't commit. By framing Adams and letting Harris literally get away with murder, then-assistant district attorney Doug Mulder, several dishonest Dallas detectives and witnesses looking for a deal or their 15 minutes of fame gave Mark Mays a death sentence as well as the innocent Adams.

Mulder had never lost a capital trial, and he wasn't going to start then by letting the non-Texan (which is almost a crime itself in Texas) off the hook.

To bolster the perjured testimony of Harris, the Dallas police and shameless "eyewitnesses" who saw nothing, Mulder called in his bug gun: the late James Grigson, who was called "Dr. Death" for his prosecution- friendly testimony in hundreds of death-penalty cases. The folksy, always-certain psychiatrist helped persuade juries that almost every defendant he testified about after a cursory on nonexistent examination would undoubtedly kill again if given the chance.

The danger of Grigson's testimony was laid bare for the world to see in The Thin Blue Line. The movie documented how Grigson testified that the soft-spoken Adams was an "extreme sociopath" who would kill again, even though Adams had never been in trouble in his life, just as he has never been in trouble since his release in 1989.

The same couldn't be said for "Dr. Death." The psychiatric hit man was twice reprimanded by the American Psychiatric Association -- once for improperly using the results of a competency test against a defendant during the punishment phase of his trial and then for claiming he could predict with absolute certainty how dangerous a defendant he had never examined would be in the future. As more questions about Grigson's ethics came to the fore, the association finally expelled Grigson from its ranks and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians followed suit.

The biggest culprit in the vicious, dishonest prosecution of Adams that freed Harris to kill again was Doug Mulder. Mulder, unlike murder victim Mark Mays, is alive and well and making lots of money -- as a criminal- defense attorney, of all things.

As sad as Mark Mays' needless death was, it was not all that unusual. It is conservatively estimated that more than 10,000 Americans are convicted of serious crimes they did not commit each year. That means the person who did commit the crime got a "get-out-jail" card that frequently persuades them that they know how to beat the system and they keep on trying -- often committing more murders, rapes, robberies or other serious felonies before the law or time finally catch up with them.

If the mistakes that led to wrongful convictions were honest ones made after a painstakingly thorough investigation, it cold be argued that is the price we have to pay in a high-crime society full of fallible people.

But an Innocence Project analysis of what cased the erroneous convictions of the first 70 people exonerated by DNA testing found that a significant percentage of wrongful convictions occurred because of doctored, planted or misinterpreted evidence; false confessions squeezed out of suspects by psychological manipulation, lies about evidence and mistreatment that stops just short of physical abuse; false testimony by frequently discredited jailhouse snitches and other witnesses; scientifically discredited but still permitted forensic evidence, including microscopic hair comparison matches; prosecutorial misconduct; poor work by defense attorneys; police misconduct; and -- the biggest cause of all -- mistaken identifications.

Proposals backed by sound science could help eliminate most of these causes of erroneous convictions, but prosecutors and police are loathe to admit that the system needs fixed. As long as they resist reform, more innocent people will go to prison and more serial criminals, killers and rapists will be allowed to commit more crimes, and more Mark Mayses will be victimized by more David Harrises. And that's the biggest crime of all.

(source: Martin Yant is the author of Presumed Guilty: When Innocent People Are Wrongly Convicted and 4 other books. He is also a licensed private investigator whose investigations have helped exonerate 10 inmates, 2 of whom were originally sentenced to death; FreePress)

     Steven Howard Oken, 42, 2004-06-17, Maryland

Maryland inmate Steven Howard Oken was put to death by lethal injection in Baltimore tonight, nearly 17 years after he brutally assaulted and killed a White Marsh college student and newlywed and 2 other women.

Oken's execution shortly after 9 p.m., the 1st in Maryland in 6 years, came just hours after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) refused a request to commute the triple murderer's sentence to life without parole.

"After a thorough review of the request for clemency, the facts pertinent to the petition, and the judicial opinions regarding this case, I decline to intervene," Ehrlich, a death penalty supporter, said in a statement. "My sympathies tonight lie with the families of all those involved in these heinous crimes."

Oken, 42, received his capital sentence for the November 1987 death of Dawn Marie Garvin, whom Oken sexually violated and then shot in the head in her Baltimore County apartment.

2 weeks later, Oken sexually assaulted and killed his sister-in-law, Patricia Hirt, before fleeing to Maine, where he then did the same thing to a young motel clerk named Lori Ward.

Garvin's husband and mother and relatives of the 2 other women Oken killed during the 2-week rampage were among those expected to witness the execution inside the old Maryland penitentiary in downtown Baltimore.

Before the execution, demonstrators and counter-demonstrators gathered for hours outside the penitentiary's medieval-looking walls and turrets.

Death penalty opponents, who rallied around Oken despite the details of the murders and his undisputed guilt, lamented Ehrlich's refusal to intervene. "That would have been the humane thing to do and would have avoided the media circus" of the past week, said Cathy Knepper, the Maryland death penalty abolition coordinator for Amnesty International.
"I'm thinking of the Romano and Oken families. This was all unnecessary and I can't imagine what it's put these two families through."

Ehrlich's refusal to grant clemency came as federal courts rejected defense lawyers last-minute legal appeals to try to save their client's life. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejected a defense argument that executioners' plans to cut into Oken's skin to administer a lethal injection would be cruel and unconstitutional.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court rejected a separate petition that argued Oken had suffered from ineffective representation at his 1991 trial.

The Supreme Court's decision was the 2nd time in as many days the justices had refused to delay the execution. Last night, the high court lifted a stay of execution in the case, reversing a federal appellate court that only hours earlier had sided with Oken and upheld the stay. At issue was whether Oken was denied due process when prison officials delayed providing his attorneys the lethal injection protocol.

After more than a decade of court appeals, lead defense attorney Fred Bennett said his client was "ready to die."

Oken becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Maryland and the 4th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1994.

(sources: Washington Post and Rick Halperin)

     James Neil Tucker, , 2004-05-28, South Carolina

James Neil Tucker, who killed 2 women while looking for money 12 years ago, has been put to death in South Carolina's electric chair.

Moments before his death, Tucker expressed remorse in a statement read by his lawyer Teresa Norris. "To those I have harmed: my abject apologies and regrets. I am ashamed," the statement read.

Then a brown hood was placed over Tucker's head and an electrician checked the long, black cord that ran from the ceiling of the death chamber to the wooden chair.

The electrician nodded at the warden and about 30 seconds later, a breaker fell with a thump. Tucker's body jerked upward, then the breaker was shut off and he slumped forward in the restraints.

A few seconds later, the breaker thumped again and more current was sent for about two minutes. Tucker's body had no reaction. He was officially pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m.

Tucker was executed for killing 54-year-old Rosa Lee "Dolly" Oakley in her Sumter County home in June 1992. He stole $14 from Oakley, then shot her twice in the head. Tucker said he needed money to help his pregnant wife.

He also was sentenced to death for killing 21-year-old Shannon Mellon in Calhoun County 6 days later. Mellon's hands and legs were bound and she was shot 3 times in the head. Tucker took her car and $20.

Tucker, 47, is the f1st inmate in the nation to go to the electric chair since Earl Bramblett was executed in Virginia in April 2003, and the first to be electrocuted in South Carolina since 1996.

The state allows inmates to choose lethal injection, but Tucker's lawyer said he felt if he made a choice, he would be condoning his own death.

Oakley's husband and Mellon's father watched Tucker's execution. Neither showed emotion as Tucker died, and they didn't talk to reporters after the execution.

Witnesses were taken to the death chamber about five minutes before Tucker was scheduled to die. Behind a black curtain, prison officials took him the short distance from his cell to the chair.

Muffled voices could be heard as they strapped Tucker in. Then his minister began praying with him and they both sang a hymn about how Jesus is always with someone no matter what happens.<_P> Then pastor Eddie Norris said, "Glory, hallelujah, amen?"

"Glory, hallelujah," Tucker said.

Friday's execution ended a life of crime for Tucker. He was sent to an adult prison at 17 for raping an 8-year-old girl and an 83-year-old woman in Utah.

He escaped 3 times from prison while serving that sentence from 1974 to 1991. Last month Tucker tried to escape from death row by threatening a guard with a safety razor blade melted into a toothbrush. He was recaptured minutes later.

Tucker said his stepfather abused him and he was raped by an older prisoner while he was in a psychiatric ward as a young teen, according to Orangeburg lawyer Jay Jackson, who defended Tucker in the Mellon case.

"Everything was about him and about his needs. And if his needs were averse to yours, then tough," Jackson said earlier this week. "He just had no sympathy for how his behavior would affect you."

Tucker becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in South Carolina and the 32nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1985.

Tucker is the 247th inmate to die in South Carolina's electric chair, which was built in 1912. But he is only the 2nd to be electrocuted since the state first offered lethal injection in 1995.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     John Blackwelder, 49, 2004-05-25, Florida

Florida executed a man Wednesday who strangled a fellow prisoner to get a death sentence rather than serve a life term for sexually assaulting a child.

John Blackwelder, 49, was executed by chemical injection at the Florida State Prison near Starke for the 2000 murder of inmate Raymond Wigley.

He was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. ET, said Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush.

Blackwelder had a history of criminal convictions and was sentenced to life without parole in 1998 for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy, a crime he said he did not commit.

He said he wanted to die but could not bring himself to commit suicide and that he strangled Wigley in order to force the state to execute him.

Blackwelder pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and told the judge at his sentencing hearing that if returned to prison he would kill "as many times as necessary" to be put to death.

"I'm stuck in prison the rest of my life. There's no way of getting out. I'm not being in there. I can't handle it," Blackwelder told the judge.

He had been scheduled to die on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of Florida's resumption of capital punishment. On May 25, 1979, John Spenkelink became the first prisoner Florida put to death after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment.

But the governor delayed the execution for 24 hours to investigate another prisoner's claim that someone else had confessed to Wigley's murder.

State investigators found no reason to doubt Blackwelder's guilt and Bush allowed the execution to proceed.

Wigley, also serving a life sentence, was convicted of raping, torturing and murdering 47-year-old Adella Maria Simmons in 1983.

Death penalty opponents said executing Blackwell would send a dangerous message to all prisoners serving life sentences.

"The message goes out to every lifer in the state," said Abe Bonowitz, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "If you don't like your life in prison, kill a prison worker or kill a fellow inmate and the state will assist in your suicide."

Death penalty critics said Blackwelder is the 7th Florida prisoner to "volunteer" for execution in recent years. Others, including serial killer Aileen Wournos and anti-abortion activists Paul Hill, dropped appeals guaranteed under Florida's death penalty statute.

Blackwelder becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 59th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979. Blackwelder becomes the 26th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 911th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Texas, with 322, has the most among the 38 states with the death penalty, followed by Virginia's 91, Oklahoma's 73, Missouri's 61, and 59 in Florida.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)

     Kelsey Patterson, 50, 2004-05-18, Texas

Prison officials executed a mentally ill convicted killer this evening as Gov. Rick Perry rejected a parole board recommendation to commute the sentence to life in prison or delay the lethal injection.

The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a stay for Kelsey Patterson, 50, whose lawyers challenged lower courts' rejected claims that Patterson was mentally incompetent to be executed.

Patterson, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for a double slaying in Palestine in East Texas almost 12 years ago.

In a 5-1 vote, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed a petition from Patterson's lawyers and supporters that he be spared. Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, and Monday's board action marked the first time at this late stage in a condemned inmate's case the panel recommended the governor commute a death sentence.

"State and federal courts have reviewed this case no fewer than 10 times, examining his claims of mental illness and competency, as well as various other legal issues," Perry said in a statement less than an hour before Patterson's scheduled execution time. "In each instance the courts have determined there is no legal bar to his execution.

"This defendant is a very violent individual. Texas has no life without parole sentencing option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would never be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted. In the interests of justice and public safety, I am denying the defendants request for clemency and a stay."

Patterson arrived at the death house early this afternoon.

"Mr. Patterson seemed even tempered although he kept insisting to the wardens that he had amnesty," said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, where executions are carried out. "He seemed particularly concerned about whether or not he'd be allowed to see his legal materials, which he was."

Although Patterson made no meal request, a tray of sandwiches and cookies was available to him, and he was offered and accepted a candy bar and a soft drink. He earlier had refused to complete paperwork associated with an execution, like picking a last meal or selecting witnesses.

"He denied to the warden that he's ever going to be executed," said J. Gary Hart, Patterson's lawyer.

Hart had cited Patterson's actions as another reason why the prisoner was mentally incompetent and should not be put to death.

Patterson was condemned for the 1992 shootings of Dorthy Harris, 41, a secretary at an oil company office in Palestine, and her boss, Louis Oates, 63.

Throughout his trial, outbursts earned Patterson repeated expulsions from the courtroom. He frequently talked about "remote control devices" and "implants" that controlled him.

While on death row, he told people and wrote nearly incomprehensible letters to courts about having amnesty and a permanent stay of execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded, but has not extended the same protection to those claiming mental illness. However, the high court in a 1986 ruling regarding insanity and the death penalty said an inmate may not be executed if he doesn't know why he's on death row and the punishment he faces.

Lawyers from the Texas attorney general's office, opposing appeals by Patterson's attorneys to halt the punishment, cited Patterson's references to stays of execution as indicating the prisoner had an awareness of his punishment.

Evidence showed Patterson left his home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, and walked about a block to where Oates was standing on a loading dock at his business. Patterson walked up behind him, shot him in the head with a .38-caliber pistol and started walking away. When Harris saw the scene and began screaming, Patterson grabbed her and shot her in the head.

Then he went home, took off his clothes except for socks, and was arrested walking on the street in front of his home.

In 1980 in Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, Patterson was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings.

In March, Perry for the 1st time since taking office in 2000 commuted the death sentence of a prisoner. The inmate is mentally retarded and was not within hours of a scheduled execution.

In 1998, 4 days before former self-confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas was to die, then-Gov. George W. Bush commuted Lucas after questions were raised about his conviction. It was the only death sentence commuted by Bush in his 6 years in office when 152 executions were carried out.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Jason Scott Byram, 38, 2004-04-23, South Carolina

Convicted killer Jason Scott Byram maintained his innocence in his final statement before he was executed at 6:15 p.m. Friday for the death of a Columbia schoolteacher.

Through his attorney Jay Elliott, he sent his condolences to the family of Julie Johnson. Johnson's mother held her brother's hand as the lethal chemicals were given to Byram.

Byram, 38, was convicted of killing the 36-year-old teacher with her own kitchen knife in May 1993 as she slept on the sofa. Her husband and 3 children also were asleep but didn't wake up until after Johnson had been stabbed several times.

Byram was convicted in 1995. He told authorities there was another man with him who struck the fatal blows, but prosecutors found his fingerprint inside the home and a DNA analysis found Johnson's blood on a shirt in Byram's apartment.

Prosecutor Barney Giese was confident the jury convicted the right man, and has said there was no evidence another man was involved.

Byram lost a final appeal to the state Supreme Court earlier this week.

Byram becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death in South Carolina this year and the 31st overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1985.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Jerry McWee, 51, 2004-04-16, South Carolina

With a minister's hand on her shoulder, Jerry McWee's mother sobbed after her son was put to death Friday for killing an Aiken County convenience store clerk in July 1991.

McWee, 51, blew a kiss at his mom and she blew one back. A tear formed in his eye as his final words asking for forgiveness were read.

That tear finally rolled down the side of his head moments after he stopped breathing. More than 10 minutes later, McWee was officially declared dead at 6:18 p.m.

Authorities say McWee took clerk John Perry to the back of the country store and shot him twice in the head before stealing $350 from the cash register.

McWee lost a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and a plea for clemency to the governor earlier this week.

McWee becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in South Carolina and the 30th inmate overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1985.

     Dennis Mitchell Orbe, 39, 2004-03-31, Virginia

Dennis Mitchell Orbe was executed by injection tonight for the 1998 capital murder of a convenience store clerk in York County.

Orbe, 39, of Chester, was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m., said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Orbe quietly said no.

Orbe was accompanied into the death chamber by his spiritual adviser, a Catholic nun who placed a small wooden cross holding a green plastic Jesus to Orbe's lips before she joined witnesses in the witness booth.

A media witness said Orbe's spiritual adviser held a cross to Orbe's face after he had been strapped to the gurney and Orbe kissed it. Traylor said Orbe had his eyes closed as the IVs were put into him and he appeared to be praying.

Orbe's attorney wept silently on the back row of the witness booth.

Among the witnesses were York County Commonwealth's Attorney Eileen M. Addison and Police Lt. F.T. Lyons, the lead investigator in the case.

"I thought about his mother and his family," said Addison, who prosecuted Orbe. "But you still hope it gives some kind of closure to the victim's family."

Said Lyons: "It was sobering, but it's our criminal justice system at work." He said the execution of Orbe was "morally and biblically just."

The U.S. Supreme Court refused last-minute appeals based on Orbe's argument that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, and Gov. Mark R. Warner declined Orbe's request to delay the execution.

Orbe contended he could suffer great pain if a sedative failed to work and he woke up while a drug to stop his heart was being administered.

Orbe had said his chances of winning a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court were virtually nil.

"Not a chance in hell," he said Monday in a phone interview from the building housing the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center.

A group of about 20 capital-punishment protesters holding candles stood in a light rain and fog in a field outside the prison.

Orbe's crime was captured on the convenience store's surveillance tape, which showed that Rick Burnett put up no resistance as Orbe shot him in the chest with a .357-caliber revolver.

On the run during a 10-day crime spree, Orbe said he tried to get gas at the store about 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 24, 1998, but the pump required prepayment before it would operate.

He went into the store and brandished the gun at Burnett. "He saw the gun. I said, 'Give me the ... money. I actually cocked the hammer. I told him again, 'Give me the ... money.'

"He hesitates. I figured he might be trying to figure out a way to stop me. I reached out to actually point it directly at him. I was shaking. I was as scared as he was, but when I extended the gun it went off. It happened so quickly I was dumbfounded. I seen the hole in his sweater. I panicked. I got the money and got out of there."

The slaying was part of a crime rampage that included abductions, assaults, robberies and break-ins in Richmond and Chesterfield and New Kent counties.

Orbe becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 91st overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Virginia trails only Texas (321) in the number of executions carried out since the US Supreme Court re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Times-Dispatch, Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     William D. Wickline, 52, 2004-03-30, Ohio

In Lucasville, a man was executed Tuesday for strangling an unconscious woman with a rope after slitting her husband's throat over a $6,000 drug debt. The only witness said the former prison slaughterhouse worker cut up the bodies, which were never found.

William D. Wickline, 52, was pronounced dead at 10:11 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Wickline's final statement was, "May tomorrow see the courts shaped by more wisdom and less politics."

He slept about 5 hours Monday night and visited with his attorneys and two brothers early Tuesday, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the state prison system. She said Wickline showered and shaved, and had 2 cups of coffee and Rice Krispies cereal. He then read the Bible and prayed.

A 3-judge panel convicted Wickline in 1985 of killing Christopher and Peggy Lerch in his Columbus apartment three years earlier. The bodies of the couple from Blendon Township north of Columbus were never found.

His death sentence was for the slaying of Mrs. Lerch, 24, because the judges said she was killed to cover another crime. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing Chris Lerch, 28.

Wickline's former girlfriend testified he used a saw to butcher the bodies and had a friend help him throw the bagged parts in trash bins around Columbus. Teresa Kemp's story matched that of police informants who didn't testify.

Wickline becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Ohio and the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death overall since capital punishment was resumed there in 1999.

Wickline becomes the 21st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 906th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Lawrence Colwell Jr., 35, 2004-03-26, Nevada

Nevada death row inmate Lawrence Colwell Jr. was executed by injection Friday night for strangling an elderly tourist in Las Vegas.

Colwell, 35, was executed at the Nevada State Prison after refusing to seek a stay from a federal judge - who had said he would stop the execution if Colwell asked.

The inmate wearing jeans, a blue cotton shirt and shiny black boots was led into the prison's old gas chamber. He briefly glanced at the 20 witnesses who were in the viewing area and closed his eyes as he was hoisted onto the gurney.

Colwell died a few minutes after being injected with 3 lethal drugs at 9:02 p.m.

Colwell was executed for strangling Frank Rosenstock, 76, a New York widower who had retired to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. The March 1994 slaying occurred after Colwell's girlfriend lured Rosenstock to his Las Vegas hotel room and summoned Colwell.

Colwell strangled the retired Brooklyn furrier with a belt, took $91 in cash and Rosenstock's credit cards, but missed $300 the victim had hidden in a sock. Afterward, prosecutors said, Colwell and Merrilee Paul returned to their motel "and had sex and breakfast."

Paul later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Some 30 people lit candles, carried signs and sang hymns outside the prison to protest the execution.

"We're sad that the state of Nevada is taking one of its citizen's lives tonight," said Nancy Hart, who heads an anti-death penalty group.

Chris Daugherty of Carson City carried a sign supporting Colwell's execution "Nevada is the Old West - Hang Him High."

The execution was the 1st in Nevada since April 2001 when Sebastian Bridges was put to death and the 52nd at the Nevada State Prison since 1903.

Executions are held in the prison's gas chamber, though lethal gas hasn't been used since convicted killer Jesse Bishop was executed in 1979. Lethal injections have been used for the nine executions since then, including Colwell's.

All but 1 of the condemned inmates cleared the way for their executions by voluntarily surrendering their rights to appeal.

Colwell said at recent court hearings that he wanted no more appeals.

"I can't sit here and say I'm 100 % for this," Colwell said at a Feb. 25 hearing in Las Vegas, where a judge issued a death warrant. "Like I've told the attorneys all along, I'm about 90-10 and I don't think that will ever change."

"Do I want to die? No, I don't want to die," he said." But is the value of life there for me now? No, it isn't."

The Oregon native lost 2 state Supreme Court appeals, including one in 1996 and another in 2002 in which Nevada justices said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against using judicial panels in capital cases couldn't be applied retroactively. Colwell receiving the death sentence from a 3-judge panel after pleading guilty and requesting he be executed.

At his initial 1995 sentencing hearing, Colwell told the sentencing panel that he planned for weeks to kill someone and murdered Rosenstock "for the kicks of it, I guess."

He said he was sorry for what he did, but added the murder "was like taking a walk in the park, taking a drive down the street."

The victim's son, Terry Rosenstock, 47, a New York banking consultant, and his sister, Mindy Dinburg, 52, a New Jersey probation officer, witnessed the execution.

84 inmates remain on death row in Nevada.

Colwell becomes the 1st Nevada condemned inmate to be put to death this year and the 10th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Hung Thanh Le, 37, 2004-03-23, Oklahoma

In McAlester, after several attempts to save the life of convicted murderer Hung Thanh Le, the Vietnamese refugee was executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Tuesday.

Le, 37, was put to death by lethal injection at 6:04 p.m. for the 1992 stabbing death of Oklahoma City beauty salon owner Hai Nguyen.

Attorneys for Le were pursuing legal appeals Tuesday, but the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a request to stay the execution. Le had no other appeals pending.

Death penalty opponents rallied at the Capitol Tuesday asking Gov. Brad Henry to give Le clemency.

Le's attorney, Lanita Henricksen, had argued that Le was denied access to assistance from the Vietnamese consulate, as guaranteed by the Geneva Convention.

Vietnam and the United States did not have diplomatic relations when Le was arrested for the murder in November of 1992. The 2 countries resumed relations in July 1995. Le was convicted in September 1995.

Tuesday was his 3rd execution date.

Le had been scheduled to die Feb. 26, but officials from the Vietnamese Embassy asked Henry to delay the execution so the embassy could have time to review the case.

His 1st execution date in January was delayed so Henry could review the case after the Pardon and Parole Board unanimously recommended clemency for Le. Henry later rejected that request.

Le ate his last meal before he was strapped to a gurney and given a lethal mixture of drugs. Le confessed to killing Nguyen, 34, the night he was arrested. Le becomes the 4th condemned inmate executed in Oklahoma this year, and the 73rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     David Clayton Hill, , 2004-03-19, South Carolina

At 6:04 p.m. Friday, David Clayton Hill took what appeared to be his last breath.

13 minutes later, it was announced by a warden at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia the sentence handed down against the Georgetown native on Halloween 1995 had been carried out.

Hill, 39, received the death penalty for shooting and killing 37-year-old Georgetown Assistant Police Chief Maj. Spencer Guerry in March 1994.

Guerry had pulled Hills car over for having an expired license tag.

At the trial the following year, it took the jury 45 minutes to find Hill guilty, and 80 minutes to sentence him to death.

Friday's execution brought to a close years of appeals and 2 weeks of legal maneuvering between Hill's attorneys and South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster on whether the sentence would be rendered or postponed.

On Feb. 20, the State Supreme Court issued the warrant setting March 19 as the execution date. That put into motion a series of last ditch efforts by Hill's attorney, Jerome Nickerson, to have the procedure halted.

Motions were filed in U.S. District and Circuit Courts for a stay on the grounds that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. District Court granted the stay on March 4 and the 4th District Court of Appeals upheld the stay on March 16.

The attorney general then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which did not issue a ruling until about 2 p.m. Friday, 4 hours before the scheduled execution.

"The high court vacated the stay of execution to allow the sentence to go forward," McMasters spokesman Mark Plowden said in a phone call Friday afternoon.

Nickerson sought to have Gov. Mark Sanford step in, but that request was also denied.

"I have reviewed this matter with my legal counsel and can find no reason to intervene and overturn the findings of an exhaustive judicial process," Sanford said in a statement issued at 4:26 p.m. Friday.

With nothing left to stop the sentence from being rendered, Hill was offered the opportunity for a final meal, but his request was denied.

"All he asked for was a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, but that is contraband, so he didn't get it," said prison spokesman John Barkley.

At about the same time Sanford issued his decision, a few protesters opposed to the death penalty began to march as they carried signs along the edge of the prison property.

One of the protesters was Margaret Abbott, who has a son on death row. She said she has known Hill for many years.

"David is young man who has matured since he went to prison. His mother died and he wasn't able to go to the funeral. His mother didn't get a chance to have her arms around him for years, but if they execute him tonight, she will have her arms around him because I know where he will go," she said. At about 5:20 p.m., Hill was escorted about 50 feet from his holding cell to the death chamber, said Barkley, who would not release details of Hills demeanor during that final walk.

Out of the view of witnesses, Hill was placed on a gurney and his arms were outstretched and taped down. The IVs were then inserted into his veins.

At about 5:45 p.m., seven of the 11 witnesses were driven the half-mile from the front office of the prison to the small Capital Punishment Facility. They included Spencer Guerrys widow, Sally; Georgetown Police Chief Dan Furr; former Georgetown Police officer Tracy Newell; Hills brother Jeff Scott; Solicitor Greg Hembree and 2 agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

5 minutes later the 3 media witnesses were allowed in the room.

A muffled voice could be heard from behind the glass and closed curtain for about three minutes. The person was reciting what sounded to be the Lords Prayer and the 23rd Psalm.

Then, at 6:01 p.m., the curtain opened with 5 people standing by Hills side. 3 of them quickly walked behind another curtain, leaving only Hill and 2 wardens in the sight of the witnesses.

At the front of the prison, the protesters stopped marching and sat silently in a circle as the execution was taking place.

Hill, wearing a green shirt, with the lower half of his body covered with a white sheet, had his head facing away from the witnesses.

He then turned his head around, and even lifted his head twice momentarily, as if he were trying to see who was in the witness room.

He appeared to make eye contact with both Mrs. Guerry and Furr, who were seated on the front row of chairs, only inches from the window.

His lawyer then read his seven-word final statement: "Read Philippians 1:9-23."

A portion of the passage written by the Apostle Paul states: "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the 2: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."

Hill's priest then entered the witness room and Hill looked over and smiled briefly.

Mrs. Guerry later said she did not know who Hill was looking at when he smiled.

He then rested his head and stared at the ceiling. Seconds later he closed his eyes as he exhaled for what seemed to be the final time.

A deafening silence fell over the building for 13 minutes as each of the witnesses stayed focused on Hill, the 6th Georgetonian to be executed in the past century.

At 6:17 p.m., a medical examiner walked in and placed a stethoscope to Hills heart and he was pronounced dead.

At a press conference following the execution, Mrs. Guerry, who had wrestled for weeks about whether to be a witness to the sentence, said she made her decision after she arrived at the capital punishment facility.

"When I walked in the witness room door is when I decided. I did it for Spencer," she said.

When asked, Mrs. Guerry said she was not surprised Hill offered no apology or showed no remorse.

"I didn't expect one," she said.

Hembree echoed Mrs.Guerry's comments.

It would be appropriate to express some type of remorse but he chose not to do that and I think that is a comment on his nature," he said.

Mrs. Guerry said she expected Hill to look different once the curtain opened.

"I may be a little naive, because I thought when I first saw him, I expected him to look different because he took my husband and son's father away. He looks like you or I. That was very emotional," she said.

Hembree also said Hill's case should send a clear message to anyone who ever thinks of harming a law enforcement officer.

"This was clearly a case that warranted the death penalty. Anyone who chooses to kill a police officer in the line of duty will face the possibility of the death penalty. If the jury does hand down a death penalty, we will work with the attorney general's office to see that sentence is carried out," he said.

Former Solicitor Ralph Wilson, who prosecuted the case against Hill, told the Post and Courier last week he agrees with Hembree.

"If we're going to put police officers on the street to protect us, and not have the most serious penalties when you kill a police officer, we're fighting a losing battle," he said. "You'd have open season on law enforcement."

Nickerson said he worked hard for his client because Hill was "a really decent human being. He's an interesting, thoughtful individual who really cares about other people."

Both Mrs. Guerry and Furr said after they saw the lethal injection method of execution 1st-hand, they don't understand how it can be called "cruel" as it has been by many defense attorneys across America.

"I looked at the medication going into Mr. Hill and I saw how peaceful it was for him and I thought how violent it was for my husband," Mrs. Guerry said.

"I was struck by the very humane way Mr. Hill died. I recall being on the scene when Spencer was killed and it was totally different," Furr added.

     Brian Lee Cherrix, 30, 2004-03-18, Virginia

A man who sodomized and murdered a young mother of 2 he lured to a vacant house on Chincoteague Island was executed Thursday night.

Brian Lee Cherrix, 30, convicted of killing 23-year-old Tessa Van Hart in 1994, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:10 p.m.

He had given up his final federal appeal and did not file a clemency petition with Gov. Mark R. Warner.

Police said Cherrix attacked Van Hart after she delivered a pizza to an empty home on the thinly populated island, then shot her twice in the head to prevent her from reporting the incident.

Cherrix becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia, and the 90th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Virginia trails only Texas (321) in the number of executions since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     David Jan Brown, , 2004-03-09, Oklahoma

David Jay Brown criticized appeals courts just before the state of Oklahoma put him to death Tuesday for the 1988 murder of his former wife's father.

"I want to tell y'all people that the state and federal courts that works on our cases, specifically on our appeals, are nothing but a bunch of morons, specifically the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals," Brown, 49, said in a final statement. "My records prove this."

Just 19 minutes before his scheduled execution, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request filed Monday by attorney Gary Peterson to review Brown's case, the last of a series of appeals.

Brown was convicted in the Feb. 19, 1988, murder of his ex-father-in-law, 47-year-old Eldon McGuire. He spent 15 years on Oklahoma's death row.

Before the execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary began, the lawyers Brown had invited as witnesses filed silently into the room.
Accordion-style blinds rose, showing Brown as he lay on a gurney.

After his statement, he jerked his head to the left to see his lawyers, including Peterson, and said, "That's it. Let's go."

Brown closed his eyes and sighed deeply after the lethal injections were administered at 6:04 p.m. His chest heaved up and down several times. He was pronounced dead at 6:07 p.m.

Brown claimed in his trial and throughout his appeals that he killed McGuire in self-defense. Brown testified in Grady County District Court that he was trying to run out of McGuire's house when McGuire shot at him and he blindly shot back.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Sandy Rinehart disputed the self-defense claim, citing testimony that Brown touched his gun to the top of McGuire's head when he shot McGuire.

McGuire's only daughter, Lee Ann, and Brown were married for six stormy months in 1983 before she divorced him. Following the marriage, Brown threatened the family several times.

Two of McGuire's cousins, Allen McGuire and Jeff McGuire, witnessed the execution. Eldon McGuire's wife, Ann, and daughter, Lee Ann, were on vacation and did not see Brown die.

"The family is just really glad this is over," Allen McGuire said. "It should have been over a long time ago."

This was Brown's fourth execution date.

Allen McGuire said Brown had an easier death than Eldon McGuire.

"We think he (Brown) got what he deserved," Allen McGuire said. "We'll put it behind us and go on."

Brown's was the 3rd execution in Oklahoma this year. Two others are scheduled to die by lethal injection: Hung Thanh Le on March 23 and Osbaldo Aguilera Torres on May 18. Brown becomes the 72nd condemned inmate to be put to death in Oklahoma since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Marcus Cotton, 29, 2004-03-03, Texas

In Huntsville, convicted killer Marcus Cotton was executed this evening for the fatal shooting of a Houston-area assistant district attorney during a robbery attempt 7 1/2 years ago.

"Well Mom, sometimes it works out like this," Cotton said from the death chamber gurney as his mother, who was among the witnesses, watched through a window. "When you are dealing with reality, real is not always what you want it to be."

Cotton, 29, told his relatives to take care of themselves and that he loved them and his children.

"Y'all are fixing to find out some deep things that are real. Bounce back, baby. You know what I'm saying. Y'all take care of yourselves," he said.

As the drugs began taking effect, he gasped and sputtered. 6 minutes later, at 6:13 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Cotton, 29, had been out of prison less than seven months after serving time for attempted murder when he was arrested for gunning down Gil Epstein, 27, a Fort Bend County assistant prosecutor. Epstein was shot in 1996 while leaving Houston's Jewish Community Center after playing basketball with friends.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review his case, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency request. Cotton becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 321st overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Cameron Willingham, 36, 2004-02-17, Texas

Spewing profanities at his ex-wife standing a few feet away, an angry former auto mechanic was executed this evening for the deaths of his 3 young children in a fire at their home 2 days before Christmas 12 years ago.

"The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit," Cameron Willingham said. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."

Willingham, 36, said, "From God's dust I came and to dust I will return so the Earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, Road Dog."

He expressed love to someone named Gabby and then addressed his ex-wife, Stacy Kuykendall, who was watching about 8 feet away through a window. He told her repeatedly in obscenity-laced language that he hoped she would "rot in hell" and attempted to maneuver his hand, strapped at the wrist, into an obscene gesture.

His former wife showed no reaction to the outburst. She declined to speak to reporters.

Willingham was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., 7 minutes after the lethal dose began flowing through his veins.

Willingham previously acknowledged he was a lousy husband but insisted he wasn't responsible for the blaze in Corsicana that killed his daughters -- 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron.

The U.S. Supreme Court in November refused to review his case and a late appeal Tuesday was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 15-0 to deny a clemency request.

"I can't think of a more horrible case," said Pat Batchelor, who was district attorney in Navarro County when Willingham was the lone survivor of the blaze Dec. 23, 1991. "All you had to do was see the pictures of little babies.

"Anybody that can do that, you just think: My God, what kind of sadistic monster is this?"

When firefighters arrived at the burning five-bedroom house on Corsicana's south side, Willingham was outside. At his trial, neighbors said he was outdoors even before flames engulfed the place and was concerned about his car getting scorched. Prosecutors contended he just wanted to get rid of the children.

Evidence at his trial showed an accelerant, believed to be charcoal lighter fluid, was used to ignite the floors, a front threshold to the house and on a concrete porch. A fire marshal testified the placement of the accelerant was designed to impede any rescue efforts by firefighters.

"Dude's a liar," Willingham said in a recent interview on death row. "It's all a farce ... They just didn't want to pursue what really happened."

Willingham suggested a lantern lamp dumped fluid when a shelf collapsed inside the house and caught fire or his oldest daughter, who was "fascinated with everything," accidentally set off the blaze.

"Either that or someone came in with the intent to kill me and the children," he said.

Willingham, a native of Ardmore, Okla., said his wife went out shopping and left him with the children. He was asleep late in the morning when the 2-year-old woke him with her cry for him. He saw smoke, jumped out of bed and told her to get out of the house, he said. Willingham said he tried to get to the twins' room, couldn't get past the flames and ran to get help. His house had no phone.

Trial testimony showed he expressed no grief over the loss of the children. Willingham, who did not testify in his own defense, disputed the comments.

"They were great kids," he said.

Willingham, a 10th grade dropout, had a history of violence and a record of felony and misdemeanor convictions both as an adult and juvenile. He said he got hooked on inhalants as a young teenager and was in and out of treatment centers beginning at age 14. He also spent time at a boot camp in Oklahoma. Evidence at his trial showed he was abusive to his family and once beat his pregnant wife with a telephone to try to force a miscarriage.

"I was a sorry husband, a piece of crap as husbands go," he acknowledged from death row. "I was so full of myself and so dumb."

Willingham's wife initially supported him and testified on his behalf at his 1992 trial. But Kuykendall told the Corsicana Daily Sun earlier this month that after reviewing case and meeting with her former husband in prison recently, she doesn't buy his version of the events that day.

"It was hard for me to sit in front of him," she said. "He basically took my life away from me. He took my kids away from me."

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Norman Richard Cleary, 38, 2004-02-17, Oklahoma

In McAlester Norman Richard Cleary was put to death Tuesday for the 1991 shooting death of a Tulsa housekeeper.

Cleary was pronounced dead at 6:14 p.m., said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Cleary, 38, was convicted in 1993 for the murder of Wanda Neafus, 44, who worked as a housekeeper at a Tulsa home Cleary and an accomplice were trying to burglarize.

On Dec. 6, 1991, Cleary and Kenneth Chandler knocked on the doors of several homes in the upper-class Maple Ridge neighborhood in Tulsa before ending up at the home of Richard Schafer, where Neafus was working.

The 2 men had intended to simply rob the house, according to court testimony, but a gun fell out of Chandler's coat and the situation quickly changed.

Cleary led Neafus around the house at gunpoint and finally shot her when she didn't have the combination to a basement safe, authorities have said.
Neafus was found slumped over in a chair. She had been shot 5 times in the face, head and neck.

Neafus' purse and a cane that had been purchased at the Smithsonian Institution were the only items homeowners determined had been stolen.

Prosecutors claimed Cleary acted so Neafus could not identify him to police.

Public defenders had argued that Cleary was unable to make quick decisions properly because of childhood abuse and an accident in which he was hit by a car.

They claimed he should be given clemency because his trial attorney failed to present that evidence.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Bobby Ray Hopkins, 36, 2004-02-12, Texas

In Huntsville, a former bull rider from New Mexico was executed tonight for fatally slashing and stabbing 2 young women more than 10 years ago while he was on probation for a drug conviction.

"Warden, at this time I have no statement, sir," Bobby Ray Hopkins, 36, said when asked if he had a final statement.

As the lethal drugs began taking effect, he gasped and gurgled. 8 minutes later at 8:19 p.m., he was pronounced dead. His execution was held up about 2 hours while last-minute appeals were considered.

Hopkins insisted he wasn't responsible for the slayings of Sandi Marbut, 18, and her cousin, Jennifer Weston, 19, at their apartment in Grandview in Johnson County, about 35 miles south of Fort Worth.

Marbut was cut about 40 times with a dull knife, its blade blunted to about 3 inches. Weston, a cousin from Indiana, had 66 wounds.

Their bodies were found July 31, 1993, by Marbut's father, who lived across the street.

"Unless you've experienced it, you can't imagine it," Terry Marbut, who planned to witness the execution, told The Associated Press. "It changes your perspective on everything. It was extremely traumatic."

Hopkins' lawyers had filed motions for clemency, for a reprieve and asked in appeals that DNA evidence used at Hopkins' trial be retested. They also were questioning the legality of a confession he gave.

Hopkins, from Lea County, N.M., was on probation for dealing cocaine when his name surfaced as authorities canvassed a crowd that gathered outside the home where the killings occurred. Bystanders told officers Hopkins, who was wanted for a probation violation, previously was at a party there and had argued with Sandi Marbut over $40 missing from her purse.

A Texas Ranger tracked down Hopkins. A blood spot on his boot matched the blood of the victims. A bootprint from the slaying scene matched Hopkins' boot.

Hopkins was questioned eight times and held in isolation for 15 days, refusing to confess. A detective he knew from Hobbs, N.M., came to talk with him and during a 4-hour interview Hopkins told how he went to the home, a struggle ensued and he stabbed Marbut. He also said he was cut in the fight.

The confession became an issue in Hopkins' appeals because of questions about whether he was properly informed of his rights and whether it should have been allowed into evidence. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, while saying it was troubled by the methods used to obtain the confession, last year characterized the error as harmless because of overwhelming circumstantial evidence against Hopkins.

His blood was found in numerous places in the apartment, including a light switch, a wall, a sock, a bathroom rug and faucet, a shoe and a magazine, a newspaper article in 1 of the victims' purse, the top of a stairway and a drawer in a bedroom.

Hopkins accused authorities of taking vials of his blood and sprinkling the contents throughout the crime scene.

Doug Allen, who was police chief in Grandview at the time, called the allegations "fairy tales."

"Anyone who sat through the case down there has no doubt who the murderer was," Allen said this week.

Hopkins refused to speak with reporters while on death row, but on an anti-death penalty Web site he wrote of his innocence and "wrongful conviction."

Evidence showed Marbut was sleeping downstairs and was attacked 1st. The commotion likely woke Weston, who came from a 2nd floor and was confronted by her killer.

On Wednesday, Edward Lagrone, 46, maintaining his innocence while strapped to the Texas death chamber gurney, received lethal injection for the 1991 slaying of a 10-year-old girl he impregnated. 2 elderly women, great-aunts of the girl, also were killed in the shotgun rampage in Fort Worth.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Edward Lagrone, 46, 2004-02-11, Texas

Maintaining his innocence, twice-convicted killer Edward Lagrone was executed this evening for a triple slaying in Fort Worth where one of the victims was a 10-year-old girl pregnant with his child.

"I just want to say I am not sad or bitter with anybody," Lagrone said in a brief final statement. "Like I've said from Day One, I didn't kill them. But I'm no better than the people that did."

He concluded by saying: "Jesus is Lord. That's all I have to say."

Lagrone, 46, sputtered and gasped a couple of times. He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m., 7 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into the veins of his arms.

Evidence showed Shakeisha Lloyd was 17 weeks pregnant when Lagrone, who was released in 1984 after serving seven years of a 20-year prison term for murder, barged into her family's home about 4 a.m. on May 30, 1991, and began shooting with a double-barreled pistol-grip shotgun he had a girlfriend buy for him one day earlier.

2 of the girl's great-aunts, Zenobia Anderson, 83, and Caolo Lloyd, 74, deaf, blind and bedridden with cancer, also were killed. An uncle was wounded.

"This is one of the uglier ones," said Steve Conder, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor handling responses to Lagrone's appeals.

"Just a cold-blooded murderer," said David Montague, the district attorney who prosecuted the case. "DNA evidence immediately linked him to the fetus of the girl who was killed."

Authorities believed Lagrone was enraged because Shakeisha's mother, Pamela Lloyd, wouldn't drop a sexual assault complaint she filed against him for impregnating her daughter even though he offered to pay her and pay for an abortion. Lloyd once dated Lagrone.

Lagrone refused to speak with reporters as his execution date approached.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon, acting on an appeal filed by Lagrone's lawyers, refused to review his case and stop the punishment.

Lagrone lived in Arlington and had worked as a cook but was known in Fort Worth's Stop Six area as a drug dealer.

He denied impregnating the girl, who completed the fourth grade the day before she was killed. DNA evidence, however, excluded 99.99 percent of other men as the father. 8 genetic tests could not exclude him, a DNA expert testified.

Pamela Lloyd testified Shakeisha was concealing her 19-month-old sister behind some boxes and shouting at her mother to hide when she was shot. The woman fled to a closet.

Omar Anderson, Lagrone's son, serving a life prison term for a 1992 murder, testified at his father's trial another man was responsible for the killings. Montague, however, said relatives who survived the shooting spree identified Lagrone.

"We had a lock-tight case as far as we were concerned," Montague said.

A jury deliberated 50 minutes before finding him guilty of capital murder.

During punishment phase, 2 of Lagrone's sisters testified he terrorized and sexually assaulted them at gunpoint in 1986. The same jury needed 25 minutes to decide he should get lethal injection.

In 1997, Pamela Lloyd was arrested for killing her husband of 4 years. Sentenced to 5 years on a murder conviction, she's scheduled for release in July.

While state procedures allow family members to witness the execution of the person condemned for killing a relative, prison regulations bar Lloyd, as an inmate, from watching the killer of her daughter die.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Johnny Robinson, 2004-02-04, Florida

     John Glenn Roe, 2004-02-03, Ohio

     Billy Frank Vickers, 58, 2004-01-28, Texas

Condemned prisoner Billy Frank Vickers, 58, who has a history of convictions and prison terms, was executed today for the slaying of a Lamar County grocery store owner during a botched robbery almost 11 years ago.

Vickers spent 10 hours in a small cell just outside the death chamber Dec. 9 while the courts considered an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the drug combination used in executions.

When the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could not resolve the case by midnight, six hours after Vickers was scheduled to die, the execution warrant expired and Vickers was returned to death row.

It was the 1st time since Texas resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982 that a condemned inmate's death warrant expired without a resolution.

The following day, inmate Kevin Lee Zimmerman won a court-ordered reprieve in the same appeal. But the reprieve was lifted less than a week later when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal, clearing the way for new execution dates for Zimmerman and Vickers.

Zimmerman was put to death last week for a fatal stabbing during a robbery in Beaumont. The contention that the drug combination resulted in cruel and unusual punishment was raised again in his case, but it failed on a Supreme Court vote.

The drug issue was included in new appeals pending in Vickers' case.
Vickers was convicted of killing grocery store owner Phillip Kinslow. Vickers and 2 accomplices weren't aware Kinslow had a gun when Vickers tried to rob him in 1993 near Arthur City, just south of the Red River. Vickers was shot 3 times, and Kinslow was fatally shot.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Kevin Zimmerman, 2004-01-21, 42, Texas

A contrite Kevin Lee Zimmerman was executed today for the 1987 robbery and murder of a Louisiana oilfield worker at a Beaumont motel.

The execution occurred 6 weeks after he had made a similiar trip to the death house only to have his life spared within about 20 minutes of the scheduled execution.

After expressing love to relatives and friends, he looked at five members of victim Leslie Gilbert Hooks Jr.'s family and asked for their forgiveness. "In the name of Jesus, I'm so sorry for the pain I've caused y'all," he said, his voice choking as he tried to hold back sobs.

"I'm sorry. Gilbert didn't deserve to die and I want you to know I'm sorry," he said. "I pray the good Lord will give y'all peace."

After telling a warden he was ready, Zimmerman began praying and was stopped in mid-sentence by a gasp as the lethal drugs began taking effect.
Ten minutes later, at 6:19 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

In a prepared statement, Zimmerman said his December ordeal "was a spiritual and emotional drain" and asked that "those who have the power to act" pass a law that bars setting execution dates until all appeals have been exhausted.

"It is not fair for an inmate's life to be toyed with by the justice system," he said. "It is not fair nor is it responsible for the states to allow victim's families to be put through the same cruel stress again and again."

He described himself as a born-again Christian who confessed his sins and repented.

Zimmerman, 42, had expressed disappointment after a U.S. Supreme Court order Dec. 10 halted his punishment for the robbery and murder of the 33-year-old Louisiana oilfield worker who was stabbed 31 times.

"I was ready to go," he said then, complaining the reprieve meant "18 more months of this crap."

Arriving Wednesday at the death house, his attitude remained much the same.

"After 16 years, another stay is just more time," he said, saying he was not seeking a reprieve but wouldn't order attorneys to halt appeals because he was leaving it to "the will of God."

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Kenneth Eugene Bruce, 32, 2004-01-14, Texas

In Huntsville, a former pizza delivery driver was executed Wednesday for the 1990 shooting death of a woman after robbing her and her husband of some inexpensive jewelry and less than $10.

Kenneth Eugene Bruce first addressed the family of his victim, Helen Ayers, and then spoke to his family.

"And to the family of Ms. Ayers, I would like to apologize for all the pain and suffering and that God give you closure," And I pray that he blesses you," he said.

Turning to his family, Bruce told them he loved them. "I may not be with you in the physical but by grace my heart will be with you all and I know God loves everyone of you all," he said.

Bruce's mother wept loudly and was allowed to sit in a wheelchair when she was unable to stand on her own.

Bruce, 32, was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m., 8 minutes after the lethal dose began.

Bruce, who was 19 at the time of Ayers' death, was 1 of 4 men convicted for the slaying after forcing their way into her home in rural Collin County.

His lawyers sought a U.S. Supreme Court review of his case. They raised concerns about the instructions given to jurors at his trial and questioned the constitutionality of the drugs used in a lethal injection, contending the drugs as administered resulted in cruel and unusual punishment.

A couple of weeks before Christmas in 1990, 2 young men knocked on the door of Helen and Richard Ayers' home, saying their car had broken down and they needed some jumper cables.

But after Richard Ayers invited the pair inside to keep warm, 2 more young men barged in, armed with guns. After surrendering a wallet and a purse, the couple was herded into a bedroom and told to lie face down on a mattress.

Then they were shot. And shot again moments later to make sure they were dead.

Helen Ayers, 54, was killed in the 2nd volley. Her 58-year-old husband was seriously wounded.

"There was some testimony at one of the trials that since the house had pretty Christmas lights, the people there must be rich," Bryan Clayton, a former assistant district attorney in the county just north of Dallas, recalled.

Clayton called the shootings "a very ugly, horrible, senseless crime."

"They stole some jewelry and small things like that. Within an hour, they had discarded the items on the side of the road," said Clayton, who was among the prosecutors at the trials of Bruce and his 3 companions.

Richard Ayers, paralyzed after being shot in the back, remained on the floor for some 3 hours next to his dead wife until their son arrived home from work and found the carnage at the home near Prosper, about 30 miles north of Dallas.

2 of the 4, Eric Lynn Moore and Sam Andrews, turned themselves in to authorities within days. Bruce and his cousin, Anthony Quinn Bruce, then 15, were arrested 4 days after the attack.

Kenneth Bruce and Moore each received the death penalty. The 2 others got life terms.

Richard Ayers, confined to a wheelchair, testified against each of them at their trials.

Bruce, working as a pizza delivery driver when the crime occurred, declined to speak to reporters from death row. On a Web site where prisoners seek pen pals, he described himself as a song writer and poet interested in sports, reading and music.

On Tuesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, refused to stop the execution and rejected Bruce's appeal of a lower court's dismissal of the drug suit.

The issue of the lethal drugs was raised last month in 2 other Texas cases, resulting in punishment delays. But the 5th Circuit later declined to rule on an appeal refiled in those cases and execution dates for those 2 inmates were reset.

"None of these guys is challenging the legality of the conviction or sentence," David Dow, a University of Houston law professor involved in the appeals, said Tuesday. "They're all saying you can execute me but just can't torture me. The question is how to get a court to address this."

The 2 inmates who won delays in December would follow Bruce to the Texas death chamber.

Kevin Lee Zimmerman, 42, has a Jan. 21 date for a fatal stabbing during a robbery at a Beaumont hotel in 1987.

Billy Frank Vickers, 58, has a Jan. 28 date for fatally shooting a North Texas grocery store owner during a botched robbery attempt almost 11 years ago.

Bruce becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 315th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Lewis Williams, 45, 2004-01-14, Ohio

A lawyer for convicted killer Lewis Williams says he was surprised by his client's struggle against prison guards helping carry out his execution this morning.

The 45-year-old Williams continued to profess his innocence and struggled as 4 guards carried him into the death chamber this morning. Several more had to hold him down as they prepared his arms and inserted the needles for the lethal injection. It was the 1st time in 9 executions since the state resumed the practice in 1999 that an inmate has struggled with guards.

Assistant state public defender Stephen Ferrell says Williams didn't appear agitated earlier this morning.

Williams was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 76-year-old Leoma Chmielewski during a 1983 robbery.

This was the 1st time that witnesses saw members of the execution team insert the needles that delivered the lethal drugs into an inmate's arms.

Williams becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Ohio and the 9th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999. The state carried out 3 executions last year.

Williams becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 890th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

Ohio inmate executed after struggling with guards

Convicted killer Lewis Williams, struggling with guards and pleading for his life until the last moment, was executed Wednesday morning for the 1983 fatal robbery of a Cleveland woman.

Williams continued to profess his innocence even as he was carried into the death chamber by 4 guards.

"I'm not guilty. I'm not guilty. God, please help me," Williams said as he was strapped to the execution table.

He continued to cry out as his mother, Bonnie Williams, sobbed in a room separated by windows from the death chamber.

He kept pleading even in his final official statement, given at 10:07 a.m. "God, please help me. God, please hear my cry," Williams said.

He continued to cry out even after warden James Haviland pulled the microphone away. Williams continued yelling until 10:08 a.m. when he abruptly stopped speaking. His chest rose and fell a couple of times.

Haviland ordered the curtains drawn at 10:14 a.m. for the Scioto County coroner to determine that Williams was dead.

Williams was executed for shooting a 76-year-old woman in the face in a 1983 Cleveland robbery. He was the 1st Ohio inmate to be executed whose mental retardation claim was rejected.

He spent Tuesday trying to challenge the constitutionality of how inmates are executed in Ohio. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his request to stay his execution.

"He's at the end of his appeals," Ohio attorney general spokeswoman Kim Norris said.

Stephen Farrell, an assistant state public defender representing Williams, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

Williams Execution Timeline

Lewis Williams, executed Wednesday for the 1983 fatal robbery of a Cleveland woman, struggled and pleaded for help from the moment the execution process began. He was the 1st inmate to struggle since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

A timeline:

-- 9:51 a.m. Movement detected around the preparation table in a room next to the death chamber, as seen through two video monitors. It is the 1st time in 9 executions that the preparation process was viewed by witnesses.

-- 9:52 a.m. Members of the 12-person execution team forcibly lift Williams from his knees and pry his hand off the edge of the preparation table. Williams' mother, Bonnie Williams, 66, of Columbus, sobs as she watches from a witness room. There were no witnesses for the victim, Leoma Chmielewski.

-- 9:54 a.m. At least nine members of the team work to restrain a struggling Williams with a series of straps. Williams, yelling and shaking his head, repeatedly strains to lift himself up.

-- 9:56 a.m. Williams continues to struggle and shout. One guard standing by his head alternately restrains him and pats his right shoulder to comfort him.

-- 10:02 a.m. The shunts are successfully placed on the inside of Williams' forearms above the elbow. Williams has stopped shouting but continues to speak, often in a type of chant, that is not audible.

-- 10:03 a.m. The straps are taken off and Williams, his body drooping, is carried into the execution chamber by four guards. He yells, "I'm not guilty, I'm not guilty, God, please help me," as 7 guards strap him down.

-- 10:06 a.m. A member of the execution team enters the chamber and attaches the tubes carrying the lethal chemicals to the shunts in Williams' arms.

-- 10:07 a.m. Williams is asked for a last statement. "God, please help me, God, please hear my cry," he said. James Haviland, warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, gives a signal not visible to witnesses to start the flow of chemicals.

-- 10:08 a.m. After continuing to cry out and yell, Williams abruptly stops speaking as the chemicals apparently take effect. The sobbing of his mother grows much louder.

-- 10:14 a.m. Haviland orders the curtains drawn between the chamber and the witness room.

-- 10:15 a.m. Haviland reopens the curtains and declares the time of death as 10:15 a.m.

(source: Associated Press)

     Tyrone Peter Darks, 39, 2004-01-13, Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma on Tuesday executed an Oklahoma City man who shot his wife to death nearly 10 years ago.

Tyrone Peter Darks, 39, was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary after a lethal mixture of drugs was administered.

He was charged with the Aug. 7, 1994, shooting death of Sherry Goodlow, his 26-year-old ex-wife. Her death ended a violent relationship between the couple, whose marriage soured after only 6 months.

Darks fought his impending death up until the last possible minute.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week granted an injunction and stay of execution after Darks' attorney argued on civil rights grounds that the state's use of lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment barred under the Eighth Amendment.

Attorney K. Leslie Delk, of Tucson, Ariz., argued that the drugs used to execute Darks included an agent that leaves an inmate conscious but paralyzed while the person suffocates and goes into cardiac arrest.

But the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 late Tuesday afternoon to reject the claim and the stay and injunction were lifted.

Before the execution began, Darks' mother, Judy McClendon came down the hall outside the death chamber, yelling "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord!" and stomping her feet in an uneven cadence.

She walked to her seat, got down on her knees and yelled "Rejoice! You are going to see Jesus. I just glorify God."

As the curtain raised at 6:04 p.m, Darks, strapped to a gurney, half-smiled as he looked at his mother, 2 sisters and Delk.

"I love you," he told them. "Do what y'all can for Scott and Darrell. Time to go home."

Scott is his 11-year-old son.

"I'll see y'all later. This is it. It's over," he said as his mother continued crying unconsolably.

Darks looked at the ceiling as the execution began at 6:06 p.m., and his eyes slowly closed. He was pronounced dead 2 minutes later.

As the curtain lowered, McClendon walked to the window separating them, raised her hands and yelled, "I love you baby, I love you.

"You (God) let me see him come into the world and you let me see him go."

Oklahoma City police responded to more than a dozen domestic calls during Darks and Goodlow's brief marriage and both sought and were granted protective orders against each other.

Just before 3 p.m. on the day of her death, Goodlow placed a frantic 911 call to police, saying Darks had run her car off the road and had taken their son, then 2.

Officers had arranged to meet Goodlow at Darks' residence but she never showed up.

A man summoned police after finding Goodlow slumped over in the front seat of her Ford Mustang in high brush near Lake Stanley Draper. She had been shot 6 times, suffering wounds to the arm, chest and head.

The child was later found unharmed.

Goodlow's father, Joe, and her sister, Monet Goodlow, expressed relief that the process was done.

"I'm glad it's over with. I don't think he suffered any," said Joe Goodlow, 67. "I'm glad it's over with and we can go on with our lives. He can't hurt us any more."

Joe Goodlow, whose wife, Ella, died in September, said he wasn't surprised that Darks didn't apologize for his crime or even acknowledge his ex-wife's family.

"I just pray for his mother and sisters. I know what they're going through."

Darks appealed his October 1995 conviction but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his murder conviction and sentence in 1998.

A federal judge overturned the conviction and death sentence in 2001 but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in April.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied him clemency Dec. 12.

Darks also was sentenced to a year in federal prison after trying to defraud a compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He also wrote letters, including one that was supposedly from another convicted killer who confessed to killing Goodlow.

Darks becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death in Oklahoma this year, and the 70th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. The state carried out 14 executions in 2003; only Texas had more, with 24.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Raymond Dayle Rowsey, 2004-01-09, North Carolina

In Raleigh, a North Carolina man was executed early Friday for the 1992 killing of a store clerk after failed appeals that focused on whether lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Raymond Dayle Rowsey was pronounced dead at 2:23 a.m. following a lethal injection at Central Prison in Raleigh, according to Department of Correction spokeswoman Pam Walker.

Rowsey was sentenced to death for the March 24, 1992, slaying of Alamance County convenience store clerk Howard R. Sikorski.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday night that Rowsey's execution could proceed.

The state of North Carolina had asked the high court to overturn rulings of lower courts. Earlier the same day, a 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals panel rule 2-1 to uphold a stay issued Wednesday night by a lower court judge. Rowsey lost his final legal challenge late Thursday when Gov. Mike Easley denied clemency.

"Given the facts and circumstances of this case, I find no compelling reason to invalidate the sentence recommended by the jury and affirmed by the courts," Easley said in a statement.

Defense lawyers had asked Easley to block Rowsey's execution by using clemency power to change the death sentence to life in prison without parole. They contend one juror did not intend to vote for the death sentence and that Rowsey didn't get state help he needed to compensate for a childhood that centered on alcohol and drugs. During the day Thursday, Rowsey visited with family and attorneys.

Rowsey's mother, Barbara Thompson, said the family had been hopeful that courts would spare her 32-year-old son's life.

During the visitation Rowsey was able to hold his 11-year-old daughter for the 1st time since he entered prison. On previous visits, he had been separated by prison bars and glass.

"He has never touched her," Thompson said. "This is a major event. He lit up like a Christmas tree."

The case went to the high court after U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle of Elizabeth City granted a stay Wednesday. Boyle said attorneys who argued that lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment should have a hearing.

Lawyers for Rowsey and 3 others on North Carolina death row sought to delay their clients' executions at least until the U.S. Supreme Court rules this year in a separate case involving a condemned Alabama prisoner.

In the Alabama case, lethal injection was called unconstitutionally cruel because an inmate's arm would have to be cut open to reach a vein to accommodate the needle. Veins near the surface of the inmate's arm were damaged and unsuitable for injection.

The wait for a high court decision also put on hold a Virginia execution originally scheduled for last month, in which the condemned inmate also has damaged blood vessels.

In Rowsey's case, attorneys argued that North Carolina's use of thiopental sodium, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride would cause him and other condemned prisoners to "suffer excruciatingly painful and protracted deaths."

"The way they are administrated may actually disable the defendant from being able to express the pain" they are feeling, said Jim Exum Jr. of Greensboro, one of Rowsey's lawyers and a former state Supreme Court chief justice. The appeal included affidavits from two defense lawyers who had watched their clients die and said they appeared to suffer during the procedures.

"I certainly wouldn't characterize it as apparent peacefulness," said Ken Rose, director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, whose office also filed for Rowsey and other death row inmates. "In other words, they're being tortured."

The state told the Supreme Court that the argument against lethal injection was incorrect. The state also contended the lower court judge lacked jurisdiction to issue the stay because Rowsey already had a round of federal appeals and didn't have a new legal issue.

"Arguments regarding possible problems with therapeutic dosages ignore the massive dosage actually administered in the lethal injection process," the state said.

North Carolina 1st uses 1,500 mg of thiopental sodium to put the inmate in a deep sleep. That drug is followed with potassium chloride to stop the heart and Pavulon to paralyze muscles and another potassium chloride injection. Those chemicals are followed with another huge dose of thiopental sodium, the state said.

In an affidavit, Central Prison Warden Marvin Polk said he had observed 18 executions and didn't see any signs that inmates suffered.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     Charles Singleton, 44, 2004-01-06, Arkansas

Charles Singleton was executed by lethal injection Tuesday night.

The voices inside Charles Singleton's head varied, in volume and number,regardless of whether he had taken medication for his schizophrenia. Inside his Arkansas cell, he said he could often hear voices that speak of killing him.

Singleton was executed by lethal injection Tuesday night at the Cummins prison unit in Varner, about 70 miles south of Little Rock.

Singleton's attorney said his 44-year-old client welcomed his execution because he was tired of living with mental illness.

Singleton understood that he would be put to death and why -- the current legal standards to qualify for execution, said his attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig.

Singleton, however, was rational only when he was on medication. It was that fact, as well as an 18-year-old Supreme Court ruling barring executing the insane, that his attorney, some members of the legal and medical communities and death penalty critics pointed to in opposing Singleton's execution.

"If [Singleton] is artificially made to be competent, then the situation is an oxymoron," said Ronald Tabak, a New York-based attorney who has represented clients in death penalty cases.

But the prosecutor in the Singleton case claimed the defendant was sane at the time of the crime, and therefore unaffected by the Supreme Court ruling.

"I do not feel he is being medicated in order to put him to death," said John Frank Gibson, who hasn't dealt with the Singleton case in recent years. "He's being medicated to ... keep him healthy, to control him."

Stay of execution lifted

Singleton was 19 when he stabbed Mary Lou York to death while robbing a small grocery store in Hamburg, Arkansas. She identified him before she died. In 1979 he was convicted and sentenced to death.

A prison psychiatrist in 1997 diagnosed Singleton as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. That same year, a prison medication review panel ordered Singleton to take antipsychotic drugs after finding he posed a danger to himself and to others.

After the medication took effect, Singleton's psychotic symptoms abated and Arkansas made plans to execute him.

Singleton's attorneys filed a lawsuit arguing the state could not constitutionally restore his client's mental competency through the use of forced medication and then execute him.

In October 2001, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Singleton be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The state appealed, and last February a sharply divided full 8th Circuit Court lifted a stay of execution for Singleton.

The court said at the time that because Singleton was voluntarily taking his medication and because Arkansas had an interest in having sane inmates, the side effect of sanity should not affect Singleton's sentence.

In October, the Supreme Court declined without comment to hear the Singleton case.

Most Americans have consistently supported the death penalty since it was reinstated in the 1970s. But polls show that the issue of mental illness sharply affects public opinion.

The son of the victim in the Singleton case says the insanity question is just a ploy.

"I don't believe it," Charles York said. "It's just something they use to prolong things to keep it in the court system."

(sources: CNN & Rick Halperin)

     Ynobe Matthews, 27, 2004-01-06, Texas

A Dallas man described by authorities as a serial rapist was executed Tuesday night for raping and strangling a woman at her College Station apartment 3 1/2 years ago.

Ynobe Matthews declined to make a final statement before he was put to death, but mouthed "I love you" several times to a sister and cousin who were watching him through a window.

As the drugs began taking effect, he gasped a couple of times, sputtered and let out a long wheeze before becoming unconscious. 8 minutes later, at 6:18 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

A half-dozen members of his victims' families watched through another window, but Matthews ignored them.

Matthews, 27, was condemned for the death of Carolyn Casey, 21, 1 of 2 women he was convicted of killing. Testimony at his trial also linked him to at least 3 other rapes and 2 other attempted rapes.

Matthews waived appeals and asked that his execution, the 1st of the year in Texas, be carried out.

"Plenty of guys say 'You can beat this,'" he said in a recent death row interview. "I respect their fight. We all have to choose. ... We all have whole different paths to take."

Anita Casey, whose daughter, a day care center teacher, was killed in the 2000 attack, said Matthews was getting what he deserved.

"I am glad he got caught so he couldn't take another life," she said before the execution.

Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner was surprised that Matthews, a man he worked to send to death row, was following through on his desire to be executed.

"He took that position from the time he got the death penalty," Turner said. "I believed that would be short-lived."

Evidence showed that he set fire to Casey's body after strangling her to try to cover up the crime.

Firefighters responding to a call from Casey's apartment complex found a small blaze smoldering around her body. She had been propped up in a seated position against a bed. Paper, pens and makeup brushes had been set on fire near her.

Matthews, who grew up in Dallas and dropped out of Lake Highlands High School in the 11th grade, has four children ranging in age from 3 to 10.
At the time of the slaying, he was working as a night stocker at a College Station supermarket and living with a friend at the same complex where Casey lived. He and Casey had attended a party at the complex the previous evening.

Matthews' DNA was found in scrapings taken from under Casey's fingernails and other forensics evidence tied him to the murder scene.

He acknowledged being at her apartment but contended the sex was consensual. He later told detectives there had been a fight, that he strangled Casey and set fire to her to eliminate evidence and cut a window screen to give the appearance of a burglary.

"I spent the whole week getting drunk," he said from death row, adding that he also had been on a drug binge leading up to the woman's death. "But that's not an excuse."

DNA evidence and fingerprints connected Matthews to the 1999 rape and slaying of Jamie Hart, 21. Her death went unsolved for 14 months after her nude body was discovered on a rural Brazos County road, 9 miles from where her abandoned car was left running with the lights on.

Matthews, whose 1st name is "Ebony" spelled backward, confessed to forcing his way into her car and raping her. A month after he was condemned for Casey's slaying, he pleaded guilty to Hart's death.

A rape victim at his murder trial testified how he "would strangle her until almost unconscious and then let up. It would happen again and again," Turner recalled.

Authorities found marks of repeated choking on his other victims.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

     William Zuern, 45, 2004-06-08, Ohio

A man was executed Tuesday for killing a jail guard who was about to search his cell 20 years ago for a homemade knife.

William G. Zuern, 45, was pronounced dead by injection at 10:04 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. His attorney, Kate McGarry, had decided against taking the typical step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution.

Zuern refused to talk to the prison staff before his execution and stuffed his ears with toilet paper so he couldn't hear them, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

At one point, Zuern removed the paper from his ears and asked a guard, "What time does all of this start?" Dean said.

When asked if he had any last words before execution, Zuern said, "Nope."

On Monday, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati rejected two appeals by Zuern. A 3-judge panel lifted a stay of execution issued earlier in the day, then a majority of judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted not to allow the full court to consider Zuern's appeal.

Earlier Monday, U.S. District Judge Walter Rice in Dayton ordered the stay to allow the appeals court more time to consider whether Zuern's death sentence is fair.

McGarry had argued that Zuern's lawyers didn't present evidence that that could have helped him when he was sentenced.

Gov. Bob Taft on Monday denied clemency, saying Zuern never showed remorse for the stabbing and committed other crimes during his incarceration.

On Friday, the appeals court overturned an order issued last month by Rice that the execution be delayed. Rice overturned Zuern's conviction in 2000, but the 6th Circuit reinstated it last July.

Zuern was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in the June 9, 1984, stabbing death of jail officer Phillip Pence.

Zuern, formerly of Cincinnati, also is serving a life prison term for his guilty plea to fatally shooting a Cincinnati man.

He had been awaiting trial on that slaying when Hamilton County jail officials received a tip that Zuern had a homemade knife in his cell at the Community Correctional Institution, a Civil War-era prison in Cincinnati known as "the Workhouse."

Zuern was notified that officers were coming to search the cell for the weapon and when they arrived he stabbed Pence in the chest with a dagger he had fashioned out of a metal bucket handle, officers said.

At a hearing before sentencing, Zuern's lawyers read a statement from him that said he refused to "beg and crawl" for the jury to spare his life. He said he realized that if he offered no defense he could only be sentenced to death.

He declined to see his 2 sisters Tuesday before his execution, Dean said. No witnesses attended the execution for Zuern. Zuern did not have 1 visitor during his entire 20 year prison stay.

Pence's half sister and 2 deputies who worked with him, including one who witnessed the stabbing, watched the execution.

Zuern had a restless night and paced around his cell, Dean said.

Zuern also has requested that all his belongings be destroyed and that he be buried at state expense.

Zuern becomes the 4th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Ohio, and the 12th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.(sources: Associated Press, Cincinati Enquirer & Rick Halperin)

     Robert Leroy Bryan, 63, 2004-06-08, Ohio

Oklahoma executed a man on Tuesday who killed his aunt with a gunshot to the head despite appeals to have his death sentence stayed on the grounds that the murderer suffered from mental illness.

Robert Leroy Bryan, 63, was given a lethal injection of chemicals at the state's death chamber in McAlester for killing his aunt Mildred Inabell Bryan in 1993.

Attorneys for Bryan had tried to have the execution stayed, arguing that their client is mentally incompetent and should not be executed.

The execution was delayed for about 80 minutes as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a last-minute appeal before allowing the execution to go forward, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma prison system. "I've made peace with my maker," Bryan said in a barely audible voice in his final statement. "I'll be leaving here shortly."

There were about 15 family members and friends on hand for the execution.

Bryan becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma, and the 74th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Oklahoma trails only Texas (322) and Virginia (91) in the number of executions carried out since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)

     James Edward Reid, 58, 2004-09-09, Virgina

An alcoholic, brain-damaged man who stabbed an elderly woman to death with a pair of scissors in 1996 was executed in Virginia on Thursday night.

James Edward Reid, 58, was executed by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center and pronounced dead at 9:12 p.m., said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

He was sentenced to death for the Oct. 12, 1996, murder of Annie Lester, a Christiansburg resident who was believed to be in her late 80s, during an attempted robbery or attempted rape. Lester was stabbed 22 times and beaten in the head with a can of condensed milk.

Reid's appeals in recent months alleged the use of lethal injection could violate his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

His execution was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court last December. However, the justices lifted the stay in August and on Thursday they rejected Reid's most recent request for an injunction.

According to court records, Reid was in an automobile accident in 1968 and suffered a serious head injury. He was in a coma for at least 5 days.
Afterward he suffered from a seizure disorder.

In addition to the brain injury and seizures, Reid was also affected by alcoholism, noted an opinion from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Reid was a spree drinker who drank to excess once a month when he received his disability check.

Shortly after the slaying, witnesses saw a drunken Reid, his clothes covered with blood, in the vicinity of the victim's home where he had been doing chores earlier in the day. A DNA test showed it was her blood on his clothes and he left bloody fingerprints on her telephone.

In a final statement, he said: "I forgive you for what you are doing but I don't forgive you for what you think, or for what you feel, or what you say, or what you do. I forgive you because God has forgiven me."

Reid becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 94th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Virginia trails only Texas (325) in the number of executions carried out since the death penalty was re-legalized in America on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)