March 2004 Executions
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Eight killers were executed in March 2004.  They had murdered at least 10 people.

Nine killers were given a stay in March 2004.  They have murdered at least 13 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 2, 2004   Pennsylvania Carla Reid 
Diedra Moore
Albert Reid stayed

A Chambersburg man is one of four death row inmates whose death warrant was signed Monday by Gov. Ed Rendell. Albert Reid was convicted in 1998 of fatally shooting his estranged wife, Carla Reid, and her teenage daughter, Diedra Moore, on Dec. 27, 1996. The girl had alleged that Reid had molested her, and he was scheduled to face trial on that charge in January 1997. Carla Reid and her daughter were asleep in their beds when the murders took place. Reid's other children were also asleep in the home just outside of Chambersburg at the time of the murders. Reid is scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 2. Although an execution date for Reid has been set, it is unlikely the execution will take place in March, according to Jack Nelson, Franklin County district attorney. Nelson noted only two people have been executed in Pennsylvania since the death penalty statue was reinstated a number of years ago, and both of them voluntarily dropped any further appeals. 

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 3, 2004   Texas Gil Epstein Marcus Cotton executed

Despite defense pleas of childhood abuse, neglect and drug use, a Houston jury in November of 1997 sentenced Marcus Cotton to die by injection for murdering a young Fort Bend County prosecutor. Jurors deliberated more than seven hours before agreeing to the death sentence for Cotton, 23, who they had convicted in 58 minutes the previous week for robbing and killing Gil Epstein, 27. When the jury was sequestered the night before the sentence, Epstein`s parents feared another hung jury was looming. In April 1997, state District Judge Michael McSpadden declared a mistrial when the jury could not reach a decision after 21 hours of deliberations. One juror held out, refusing to even discuss the case with the others, shouting profanity and at one point blurting out an anti-Semitic remark. "Justice has finally been served for our son," said Baruch Epstein, Gil's father, who lives in Florida. "This negative ordeal is over." Zohara Epstein, Gil's mother, said she wants to see Cotton's execution and would give the injection herself if she could. As he had been throughout the trial, Cotton was stoic when the verdict was read. Asked by the judge if he had anything to say, he replied, "No, sir." While Cotton stared blankly ahead, Baruch Epstein read an emotional statement from the witness stand to the jury. "We have suffered the most tremendous loss. Now society will be a safer and better place," he said. He did not address any remarks directly to Cotton, just talked briefly about his son and how he called home every night at 6. He also thanked the jurors and the citizens of Houston for their support. During his talk, several jurors dabbed their eyes with tissues. For the second time, the Epsteins had to sit through a trial and listen to the details of their son's final moments. The evening of Sept. 18, Cotton and a friend named Lawrence Watson rode their bikes into the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center. Gil had been playing basketball at the center and had walked out with another man. Watson testified that he and Cotton had decided earlier that night to rob a drug house. But on their way, they meandered into the Jewish Community Center's parking lot on Braeswood. The two spotted the other man, and Watson robbed him of about $8 and then rode his bicycle to where Cotton was holding up Epstein. Watson said he stood at the back of the car and watched Epstein get into the back seat of his car at gunpoint. Then, he said, the man he had earlier robbed drove nearby with his high beams on and started honking. Watson said Cotton told him to kill the man. Watson held his gun in the air, and then he said he heard a shot behind him. After ducking, he turned and saw Cotton shoot Epstein a second time. He described in detail to the jury how they fled on their bikes, and how the man ran over Cotton, injuring his leg. Watson said they retreated to an apartment complex and then went back to their own complex. The next day, he said, he heard Cotton bragging about the shooting to a friend, saying that he "killed the law." Watson said Cotton told him he killed Epstein after seeing his law enforcement badge. When he was arrested, Watson, who said he has been in a gang since age 10, told the police many lies, he said. He told them that Cotton gave him the gun, when, in fact, he had stolen the gun from a home. He said he was scared. "I know I had done some bad things in my life, but not as bad as this," he said. Watson said he brought his gun that night "in case I needed it." Watson pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in exchange for his testimony. In an attempt to save Cotton's life, defense attorneys Chuck Hinton and Mack Arnold told jurors of Cotton's upbringing. They said Cotton's adoptive mother was a drug addict and habitually abused her children. Cotton first tried drugs when he was 5, and when he was 10 he witnessed his mother shoot his father. "His whole life he's been knocked down and kicked," Arnold told a reporter. He said his client fully expected the death penalty, which will be automatically appealed. Cotton's adoptive father, Edward, who heard much of testimony, said he still doesn't believe his son is guilty. The verdict, he said, is unfair. "I love him," he said. "I'm gonna see if I can still help him." Cotton has an extensive criminal history, dating back to 1987, when he was 13. The list includes theft, carjacking, and armed robberies. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and served four years of a six-year sentence -- and killed Epstein six months after being released from prison. "I think the jury did what had to be done," said prosecutor Luci Davidson. "The death penalty statute was written for a man like Marcus Cotton." UPDATE: Sweaty but invigorated after playing a game of basketball, the young Fort Bend County prosecutor could not know that his life's end was at hand. But seven years and five months later, the man convicted of murdering Gil Epstein on a late summer night outside Houston's Jewish Community Center is now consumed by the knowledge of his own date with death: Wednesday, sometime after 6 p.m. "I'm terrified," says Marcus Bridger Cotton, 29, from death row. "Petrified would be more apt. It's a deer-in-the-headlights-type thing." Preparing for what could be his last week, Cotton claimed he is innocent and blamed incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys for botching his trial. So far, though, such claims have fallen on deaf ears in the appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to review the case. Cotton's request for clemency from Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is the slim chance he has to stop the execution, said his appeals attorney, K.S. Dunn. And, added a witness to the shooting, "The guy's guilty as hell." "There's no doubt in my mind," said Sean Caruthers, a friend of Epstein's who testified that Cotton was the killer. In the Fort Bend County district attorney's office, where Epstein worked, some of his friends wear bracelets engraved with his name and the date he was killed; a framed photograph of Epstein sits on a table in the Richmond office where he worked. He was a brilliant prosecutor, passionate about his cases, they say. He was a sports buff who liked playing basketball. "Gil was a happy, fun guy," said Assistant District Attorney Mike Hartman, who used to share a table with Epstein in misdemeanor court. "We used to hang out together." "He was wise beyond his years," added Greg Gilleland, another Fort Bend prosecutor, who trained Epstein, who was 27 when he died. "He made me into a much better trial lawyer than I was before." Cotton was convicted of killing Epstein during a robbery about 10 p.m. Sept. 18, 1996, in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center in southwest Houston. Cotton and a co-defendant, Lawrence Watson, were arrested about a week after the crime following tips to CrimeStoppers. Watson and two eyewitnesses told police that Cotton was the gunman. Cotton was tried twice. The first trial ended in a hung jury that deadlocked 11-1 for conviction when one juror was unwilling to join deliberations. In articles in the Chronicle after the first trial, the jury foreman and other jurors said the holdout made unreasonable statements, spewed profanities and said that Jews are rich enough to contribute to CrimeStoppers to help solve crimes. The jury at his 2nd trial, in 1997, convicted Cotton of capital murder in less than a hour. Watson, who had refused to testify at the first trial, appeared at the second trial and said Cotton killed Epstein. Watson later pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. Caruthers, now 34, said he was robbed by Watson moments before the shooting. At trial, he identified Cotton as the man he saw in Epstein's car and who later pointed a gun at him. Another witness, Monique Green, testified that Cotton confided in her that he had shot Epstein after he saw the young prosecutor's law enforcement badge. Carla Chisholm, the center's security guard the night of the shooting, testified she saw Cotton aiming a gun at Epstein. Cotton countered that two witnesses who testified at the 1st trial that they did not see him at the center the night of the shooting were not called to testify at the second trial. Their testimony, Cotton said, bolstered his claim that he was innocent. But his trial attorney said they were not helpful. In denying Cotton's appeal in August 2003, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the 2 witnesses provided "weak evidence that Cotton was not present at the scene." The night of the shooting, Cotton had been on parole for about four months for attempted murder when he and Watson rode their bicycles to the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center. When Epstein and Caruthers stepped outside the center, Watson followed Caruthers and Cotton followed Epstein to his black Ford Mustang at the other end of the well-lit parking lot. Watson robbed Caruthers at gunpoint and ordered him to leave. Caruthers drove to the front of the center, told a staff member to call police and drove back to the parking lot. He stopped about 50 feet from Epstein's car. He saw Watson standing at the car's rear and Cotton in the front seat. Watson testified that he looked at Caruthers' car and then heard a shot fired. He said he turned around and saw Cotton shoot Epstein in the head. Caruthers said he saw the robbers ride toward him on their bicycles. Watson sped past him. Then Caruthers put his "car in first gear" and rammed Cotton, who fell down, jumped up, pointed a pistol at him and scampered over a fence. The two suspects fled, and the Houston Police Department arrested them on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27, 1996 after news media released suspect sketches. UPDATE: Seven years ago, Fort Bend County lost one of its brightest stars. Gil Epstein, a talented, young and well-liked prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office, was killed on Sept. 19, 1996 after playing basketball at the Jewish Community Center in Houston. Next Wednesday marks a new chapter in a years-long process of grieving for fellow prosecutors and those who knew Epstein. Marcus Cotton, the man found guilty of Epstein's murder in 1997, will be executed by lethal injection in Huntsville. Prosecutors, along with other family members and friends of Epstein, will attend the event. Employees of the District Attorney's Office individually say the execution brings closure for them.  Epstein, who died at age 27, was raised in New York City and attended the University of Miami in Florida before the University of Houston law school. Epstein joined the office as an intern and was hired six months later to prosecute misdemeanor crimes in County Court at Law No. 2. The memory of Epstein continues strong in the District Attorney's Office, and some prosecutors continue wearing bracelets made in his honor. A memorial adorns a wall in the District Attorney's Office, featuring Epstein-related memorabilia. Also, the office awards the Victim Assistance Gil Epstein Award each year to a Samaritan outside law enforcement who helps crime victims. Friends and co-workers remember Epstein for his many passions in life and his all-around likability. Greg Gilleland, who took Epstein under his wing as a prosecutorial partner, said he learned much from the young prosecutor. "I became a much better trial lawyer after working with him for just about 5, 6 months," he said. Epstein, said Gilleland, had an effervescent personality, an ability to communicate with people of diverse backgrounds in an effective manner, an engaging personality and was entertaining, making him a great lawyer. Specifically, Gilleland remembers a case in which Epstein prosecuted a woman in her 50s who had been driving drunk. The woman was experiencing a divorce, and Gilleland said Epstein at one point in the trial turned out the lights in the court room and asked jurors to look at the woman like any other defendant. "He told the jurors they need to look at this defendant like they would any other defendant," he said. "Not to feel sorry for her because she's got a bad marriage or because she's otherwise a pillar of the community." Prosecutor Michael Hartman called Epstein innovative, and Shelly Strimple said Epstein would always try new techniques for prosecuting, rather than following the typical formulas. Even many of his defendants have expressed admiration for Epstein. Notably, one-time defendant Richard Shaw, better known as rapper Bushwick Bill of the Houston group Geto Boys, wrote a tribute song titled "Let D.A. Rain Come Down." Gilleland said the Geto Boys ranked among Epstein's favorite musical groups, and the song's title refers to the rainy weather on the day of Epstein's death. Hartman remembers Epstein called his parents just about every day, no matter from what location. Defense attorney Rocket Rosen, a friend of Epstein's, remembers Epstein had passion for sports, religion and his family. "When you look in his eyes - and I always judge a person by his eyes - it was always a breath of fresh air," he said. "You could not help but like him." Prosecutors also recall Epstein as quick-witted and always able to tell a good story. Strimple recalls the many "Gilisms," the sayings Epstein would call upon at appropriate situations. Epstein, said Strimple, would place his fingers together and say "Excellent" like Simpsons character Mr. Burns. "He was always fun, no matter what was going on," said Hartman. "Always some kind of story about something and something exciting and entertaining all the time." Cotton's execution will be attended by some of Epstein's friends, family and co-workers. Gilleland said among those planning to view the execution are himself, District Attorney John Healey, Epstein's brother Benji and Harris County District Judge Ken Wise, while others including Rosen and Epstein's parents, plan to attend the event but not watch the execution. First Assistant District Attorney Fred Felcman said Cotton's death will be the end of a long process. "Unlike any other punishment, this really will bring closure to the justice system that will be more satisfying than probably anything else. You don't have to worry about anything else. You know this person killed Gil Epstein, the jury said 'yes,' they gave him the death penalty, and it'll probably be a closure. "We'll still be talking about Gil, but once it happens, we won't be walking around wondering, what happened to the guy who killed Gil Epstein? Is he still in jail? What's his appeal status?" Strimple chimes in. "It will be a relief to have that part done," she said. "But it doesn't mean that it's all over. Rosen explains why he wants to attend the execution. "I want to look [Cotton] in the eyes and let him know he made a tragic mistake that deservedly so cost him his life," he said. "But no matter what happens to Marcus Cotton, our memories of Gil Epstein will always be cherished and never pass." Gilleland said Cotton belongs in hell and said Cotton enjoyed privileges he took away from his victim. "Mr. Cotton has enjoyed the full complement of civil rights, Constitutional rights and due process protections that Mr. Epstein spent his prosecutorial career fighting for and that Mr. Epstein similarly did not get to enjoy," he said. 

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 4, 2004   Texas Frank Meziere, 23  Yokamon Hearn stayed

Yokamon Hearn was sentenced to death for the carjacking and fatal shooting of a Dallas-area stockbroker. Acting on a tip in March of 1998, police arrested Yokamon Hearn and Delvin Diles just after midnight at a room in the Delux Inn. They abducted Frank Meziere, 23, of Plano, at a carwash, taking him to an industrial area of east Oak Cliff and shooting him repeatedly in the head. Some men driving to work about 6 a.m. the next day spotted his body in a patch of grass. Meziere's car was found about an hour later. Police said they had determined that Hearn and Diles carjacked Meziere when he pulled into a carwash. A police spokesman said that "they forced him into his car and drove to the murder scene." Meziere's father said that "I just hope justice can be done as soon as possible. I've always been in favor of the death penalty, and I stand by that now." Dallas County criminal records showed Diles had received 5 years of probation the previous summer after pleading guilty to a felony burglary charge; Hearn had been charged with misdemeanor theft, a case which was still pending at the time of Frank's murder. UPDATE: Frank Meziere had watched a Dallas Mavericks basketball game at a restaurant with a friend and before heading home stopped at a self-service car wash to clean his black Mustang convertible. The 23-year-old Plano stockbroker, a 1996 Texas A&M University graduate, never made it home. His body was found the next day, March 26, 1998, along the side of a road in an industrial area of Oak Cliff, an area of south Dallas. He had been shot in the head 10 times. His car was found about 5 miles away, abandoned and with the lights on. "Having dealt with murders, you think you've seen it all," said Jason January, a former Dallas County assistant district attorney. "But this innocent victim was shot almost for sport. "It was just the sheer overkill of the thing that was ludicrous." Yokamon Hearn bragged to friends about how he "domed" Meziere, meaning he shot him in the head. Hearn was set to die Thursday evening for the slaying. In an appeal filed this week, lawyers for Hearn said the inmate may be mentally retarded and asked the courts to halt the punishment so they can pursue their claim. The U.S. Supreme Court has barred execution of the mentally retarded. Prosecutors said questions about Hearn's mental competence never surfaced previously. Hearn, 25, refused to speak with reporters as his execution date neared. The U.S. Supreme Court in November denied his request seeking a review of his case. "It's hard sometimes to know what a death penalty case is, but after a while you know one when you see it," said January, the lead prosecutor at Hearn's trial. "And this just screamed out for the death penalty." Dallas jurors agreed, deliberating less than an hour to convict Hearn and about an hour before deciding on punishment. Hearn was 19 at the time of the crime and had a lengthy record that included burglary, robbery, assault, a sexual assault and weapons possession. "I remember having a big map of the city showing places he had hit and pulled guns on people," January recalled this week. "He was an equal opportunity carjacker -- women, black, white, everybody." Hearn, along with 2 other Dallas men and one woman from Oklahoma City, were seen on a security camera video at a convenience store adjacent to the car wash. They had been out looking for someone to carjack, authorities said. According to testimony at his trial, Hearn drove Meziere's car after he and companion Delvin Diles forced the victim into the car. The two others, Dwight Burley and Teresa Shirley, were in a second car in a convoy that took them to an area near Dallas' wastewater treatment plant. Meziere was shot there with a Tec-9 automatic, then with a .22-caliber pistol. Hearn drove off with his car. Shirley, driver of the 2nd car, testified Meziere had his arms raised near his head and appeared to beg for his life as Hearn swung the Tec-9, a 9 mm assault-style rifle stolen from an apartment the previous day, back and forth before opening fire. After the victim hit the ground, Hearn shot him several more times, she said. Diles added some shots from his revolver. Hearn drove off with Meziere's car and kept the victim's license. A witness testified at his trial that Hearn later bragged at a party about the shooting. Physical evidence linked both Hearn and Diles to the car. Diles, 19 at the time, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to consecutive life terms for Meziere's death and an unrelated aggravated robbery. He and Hearn were arrested within days of the slaying. Shirley, then 19, and Burley, then 20, were arrested more than 8 months later. Each pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and received 10-year prison sentences. UPDATE: A condemned inmate described by a prosecutor as an "equal opportunity carjacker" was spared Thursday evening less than an hour before he could have been taken to the Texas death chamber for killing a Dallas-area man who was shot 10 times in the head. Yokamon Hearn, 25, was facing lethal injection for the 1998 fatal shooting of Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old Plano stockbroker abducted at gunpoint from a self-service car wash in Dallas six years ago. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with defense attorneys who sought a delay in their late appeals and stopped the punishment, but the court also set an accelerated briefing schedule to ensure the appeals would not be prolonged, Lori Ordiway, an assistant district attorney in Dallas County, said. The death warrant allowed the execution to be carried out after 6 p.m. although state officials normally wait until all appeals are resolved before moving ahead with the lethal injection. In the appeal before the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, lawyers contended Hearn may be mentally retarded and wanted time to pursue the claim. The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of the mentally retarded.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 4, 2004   Pennsylvania Jason Bolton  Jose Busanet stayed

Jose Busanet was convicted and sentenced to death in February 1999 for killing Jason Bolton in a drug-related street shooting in Reading on June 11, 1997. Busanet was formally sentenced to death on March 22, 1999, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the judgment on Dec. 19, 2002. On June 18, 2003, Busanet filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. Certiorari was denied on Oct. 6, 2003.  A federal judge stayed the execution of a convicted murderer who killed a man in Reading in a drug-related street shooting. Jose Busanet, 31, had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection on March 4 for killing a man in Reading on June 11, 1997. U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis issued the stay on Jan. 20, and the state Corrections Department was notified the following week.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 5, 2004   Nevada Betty Jane May 
Kim Parks
Daryl Mack stayed

The scheduled execution next Friday of a man convicted of two Reno murders was stayed Friday by Washoe County District Judge James Hardesty. Daryl Mack's March 5 execution by injection at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was stayed because Mack has filed a new petition challenging his sentence, Hardesty said. While Mack had lost one state Supreme Court appeal, he still had the option of a second, post-conviction petition in state court. Also, his case hasn't undergone a federal court review. The petition is "the first one challenging the validity of the petitioner's conviction or sentence," Hardesty said, adding that state law "makes imposition of a stay of execution mandatory under these circumstances." Mack was sentenced to death in May 2002 following his conviction for strangling Betty Jane May at a southwest Reno boarding house in 1988.
Before being linked by DNA evidence to May's murder, he was serving a no-parole life term for the 1994 murder of Kim Parks in a Reno motel.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 9, 2004   Oklahoma Eldon Lee McGuire  David Brown executed

Brown and his ex-wife, Lee Ann McGuire, had a short, stormy marriage surrounded by a generally tempestuous relationship. Eldon , Lee Ann's father, never approved of the relationship, and did not like Brown, nor did Brown like him. The situation became more serious when at one point after the marriage was terminated, Brown walked into the hair styling shop where Lee Ann worked. He was carrying a rifle, and during an argument with Lee Ann fired the weapon into a vacant barber chair. There were several people in the shop at the time. Brown was arrested and charged with several criminal counts as a result of the incident. Brown thought the charges were manufactured by Eldon, who was a retired captain with the Chickasha Fire Department and who Brown believed was very influential with law enforcement officers. Believing the charges were bogus charges and believing he would get a long prison term, Brown absconded while on bail and fled the jurisdiction. A little over a year later, Brown returned to the area. He did not surrender to authorities, but called Lee Ann to see if she would consent to dismissing the charges. She refused. He became angry, telling Lee Ann he had left a message in the wood pile at her parent's house and they would all be sorry. An obscene message was found in the woodpile. In addition, he accurately described to Lee Ann the actions of her and her parents at the house on a particular night, indicating he had been watching the house. Brown and Eldon had at least one previous physical confrontation. Brown had also called Eldon's house less than a month before the homicide. As Eldon's wife picked up an extension, she heard Brown tell Eldon "you all's time is up," and they would pay for what they had done to him. A friend of Brown's talked with Brown a month or two before the homicide. Brown blamed Eldon for his legal troubles, believing Eldon wielded undue influence over Lee Ann. When the friend asked Brown if there was anything he could do to help, Brown asked the fried to beat up Eldon. In the context of the conversation, the friend did not know whether Brown was serious. Brown's ex-wife, Connie, heard Brown say he would like to beat up Eldon. Testimony showed he possessed a handgun at the time he made the statement. and seemed frustrated at the time he made the statement. Jerry Clark, a man Brown met while he was outside Oklahoma, returned temporarily with Brown to the area in January and February 1988. During this period, he heard Brown say he would like to get intoxicated and kill Eldon, as he had cost Brown everything he owned. Brown also said he did not care if the whole family were dead. Clark returned to Louisville, Kentucky, on February 16. Brown returned there on February 21, a Sunday. Brown told Clark he and Eldon "had it out" and Brown got even. He said he had gone to Eldon's house, and left him on the floor. When they first arrived in January, Brown and Clark acquired a room in an El Reno motel, where they stayed for approximately a week. El Reno is north of Chickasha approximately 40 miles. Brown checked back into the same motel on February 16. Although he paid for the room through February 23, he left the motel on February 19, the day of the homicide, and did not return. Brown admitted going to Eldon's house, claiming he did so to convince him to change his mind about the charges. He claims Eldon allowed him to enter the house, then hit him from behind, knocking him down. He said Eldon then kicked him and told him he would kill him. At one point Eldon kicked at Brown and missed, striking the bedroom door. Brown said as he ran for the front door to exit the house, Eldon fired a shot at him, at which time Brown pulled from his back pocket a loaded 9 mm. semiautomatic pistol and began firing blindly at Eldon. He said he fired until the gun was empty, firing approximately 18 times in two or three seconds. He then went back to the motel for his clothes, then drove to Louisville. Authorities found Eldon partially curled up in front of his bathroom and near a wall heater on the south end of his living room. They found heel marks on a bedroom door across the room, and paint matching that on the door on Eldon's boot heel. They found several 9 mm. casings around the living room sofa and others in other spots around the room. Three slugs were found in the open: one on the floor near a chair, one between Eldon's feet and one on some nearby clothing. There were nine bullets in the lower portion of the wall behind the body similar to the ones lying in the open. In the northeast corner of the living room authorities found embedded in a wall a copper-jacketed bullet and fragment not consistent with the others found. That path where that bullet was found was consistent with an entry and exit hole in the corner of a television set and a shattered oil lamp globe which had been standing next to the television. A lever-action rifle was found in the middle of the room; one shot had been fired from it. The lever action was partially pulled down, but not far enough to eject the spent casing in the chamber. Four live, copper-jacketed rounds were found inside the rifle. Blood was also found on the rifle, as was a small dent, as if something had ricocheted off the rifle. Eldon suffered a severe gunshot injury to the index, middle and ring finger of his left hand which in the opinion of the medical examiner would have rendered him incapable of using it. A man's gold ring was found in the living room; it had been badly damaged. The medical examiner found seven additional gunshot wounds to the body and two to the head. A wound on the left shoulder bore evidence of stippling, indicating the weapon causing the injury was fired at intermediate range. A firearms expert with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation performed tests on a handgun taken from Brown, and concluded the weapon would have left stippling if it were fired from a distance of less than 30 inches. Both entry wounds in the head indicated shots had been fired from relatively close range. One was surrounded by stippling, indicating intermediate range. The other wound had gunpowder residue inside the wound itself. The medical examiner concluded this could only come from a "hard contact wound," meaning the barrel was pressed against the scalp itself when the weapon was fired. Brown testified he got no closer than two or three feet from Eldon during the brief struggle.  The position of the bullets found at the scene disproves Brown's self-defense theory. Despite Brown's claims he shot Eldon only to preserve his own life and did not intend to kill him, he did not seek help for Eldon after the shooting. Instead, he ran out the door, apparently locking it behind him. He testified on direct examination he took the weapon with him because he did not know what would transpire at the house; however, he said on cross-examination he intended to use the weapon if he had to. Despite Brown's claim he did not get closer than two feet to Eldon while firing, one head wound shows the gun barrel was pressed against Eldon's head when the gun was fired. Most of the bullet holes were fired into the west wall and corner of the short hallway. Photographs of the scene show that the corner of the hallway cannot be seen from the front door area, as it is blocked by a wall heater, which did not exhibit any signs of being fired at. It is apparent from the evidence that if Brown had been running toward the door while firing as he claimed, his line of fire would have been blocked by this wall heater, which would have blocked the bullets found in the lower wall behind the body. The murder of Eldon McGuire was discovered on February 20, 1988, when his daughter Lee Ann McGuire, received word he could not be contacted by telephone. Eldon had telephoned his wife, who was a patient in a local hospital, between 7:30 and 7:45 the evening before. He told her he was tired and would visit her the next morning. Lee Ann and Eldon's mother arrived at his house, forced entry through the front door, and discovered his body lying in the south end of the living room. Authorities found a cordless telephone in the kitchen area. They also found in the kitchen some meat and cheese unwrapped and uneaten; it appeared that Eldon was preparing to eat his evening meal. Brown was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 3, 1988.  UPDATE: David Jay Brown's stormy relationship with his ex-wife and her family was punctuated by intimidation, threats and violence - violence that culminated in the death of his former father-in-law. Brown, 49, is scheduled to be executed by a lethal dose of drugs for the Feb. 19, 1988, murder of Eldon Lee McGuire, who was repeatedly shot inside his home in Norge in Grady County. Brown, whose Feb and June 2002 execution dates were stayed by federal judges, was married to McGuire's daughter, Lee Ann, for about 6 months in 1983. Their breakup was followed by years of family conflict in which Brown often made threats against the McGuire family, prosecutors said. At one point, he walked into a hair-styling shop his ex-wife owned armed with a rifle and held 12 people hostage before firing the weapon into a vacant barber chair. He was charged with kidnapping and pointing a weapon. "This is a person who definitely deserves the ultimate punishment," said Grady County assistant district attorney Bret Burns, whose office prosecuted the case. "He planned and executed a cold-blooded murder," Burns said. "He's not somebody that we want living amongst us." Brown has admitted shooting McGuire but claims he acted in self defense. Prosecutors say Brown's self-defense argument is not believable because McGuire was shot eight times, including two in the head at close range. "That defeats any claim of self defense," Assistant Attorney General Sandy Howard said.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 9, 2004   Pennsylvania Stephanie Coleman Epps, 41  Steve Hutchinson stayed

"Mr. Steve" did it. That was the conclusion of a jury that deliberated for about seven hours before convicting Steven "Mr. Steve" Hutchinson, then 32, of 1st-degree murder for fatally shooting Stephanie Coleman Epps, 41, daughter of former City Council President Joseph Coleman, on Sept. 16, 1997. Hutchinson showed no emotion as he was also found guilty of 2 counts of recklessly endangering the victim's two young children and of weapons offenses. Coleman was reportedly too ill to attend the trial, but members of his family embraced after the verdict. Assistant District Attorney Bill Fisher Fisher said Hutchinson had been in an abusive relationship with the victim, and killed her after an argument outside her apartment building. The prosecutor said that the day before the slaying, Hutchinson beat and kicked Stephanie when she decided to stop being manipulated by him, and "take control of her own life." Fisher said Hutchinson had a reputation for abusing and controlling women. "This was about total control," Fisher said, noting Hutchinson warned Stephanie, "You're dead," if she refused to do what he told her. Fisher said Hutchinson, of Fern Rock, followed Stephanie into the building andfired four shots as she stood waiting for an elevator next to her 2 young horrified children. Stephanie died of gunshot wounds to the back of her head and abdomen. During the trial, Stephanie's 12-year-old son, Phillip, and 9-year-old daughter, Desiree, testified that "Mr. Steve" killed their mother. Defense lawyer Stephen P. Patrizio tried to pin the murder on Melvin Epps, the estranged husband of the victim. Patrizio implied that the husband told the kids to falsely accuse Hutchinson of being the killer. Phillip Epps testified that about an hour before the killing, Hutchinson showed up at a day-care center and argued with his mother. On the way home, when his mother saw Hutchinson following her in another car, she gave Phillip change and told him to call her sister. "She gave me a quarter and told me to call my aunt," Phillip said. "She gave me a code - to go get the milk." Fisher said the kids were "right next to their mother when this guy gunned her down." 

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 11, 2004    Tennessee Hugh L. Huddleston  Olen Hutchinson stayed

A federal judge has issued a reprieve for a Campbell County man set to be executed in March for a 1988 slaying. Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Jarvis ordered a stay of execution late Thursday in the case of Olen E. Hutchison. Hutchison had been scheduled to be put to death March 11 for the August 1988 drowning death of Hugh L. Huddleston, who was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing. Jarvis delayed the execution because Hutchison has an appeal pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Tennessee Supreme Court set last September Hutchison's execution date, despite his pending motion in the federal court system. Assistant Federal Defender Dana C. Hansen, who is representing Hutchison in his federal appeals, praised Jarvis' decision. "Obviously the court felt, and correctly so, that Mr. Hutchison should not be executed while there are still viable questions about fairness of the death sentence in this case," she said. "Under such circumstances, we should not be in a rush to take a person's life." Hutchison's case has been the subject of several demonstrations and forums in East Tennessee recently as an example of disparities in the levying of death as punishment in the state. Hutchison was one of seven men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston, 46, of Knoxville in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison, accused of plotting the slaying, was sentenced to death while the man convicted of actually pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 11, 2004   Pennsylvania Charles Love, 59
Brian Barry, 22 
Kenneth Miller stayed

Kenneth Miller of South Philadelphia, was one of four men guilty of the execution-style slayings of lawyer Charles Love, 59, and paralegal Brian Barry, 22, inside their Center City office on Feb. 25, 1998. The slayings resulted from a dispute over a $10,000 settlement in a civil case. Miller's execution was scheduled for March 11. A Common Pleas Court jury ordered the death penalty for Kenneth Miller, then 21, and Marcus Lloyd, then 20, who had been convicted of first-degree murder and other charges. The families of Love, 59, and Brian D. Barry, 22, were in court when the verdict was delivered. Later, members of both families said they were pleased with the outcome of the trial. Absent from the courtroom during the sentencing hearing was the third man on trial, Gregory Miller, 34, who is Kenneth Miller's uncle and the mastermind in the plot to kill the lawyer. The jury acquitted him of murder charges but found him guilty of criminal conspiracy. A fourth defendant, Herbert Blakeney, 20, who admitted shooting the 2 victims, had plea-bargained with prosecutors earlier and received two life sentences in exchange for testifying against the others. The death sentence ended more than 2 weeks of court proceedings, during which Blakeney testified that Gregory Miller had hired the 3 to rob and kill Love because he believed that the lawyer had cheated him out of money from a personal-injury settlement. Defense attorneys noted the plea bargain, which spared Blakeney a possible death penalty, as they asked the jury to save the lives of Kenneth Miller and Lloyd. "Keep in mind what they did to Herbert Blakeney. The person who pulled the trigger will live out his days compliments of the prosecutor . . . compliments of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," said Thomas Moore, Kenneth Miller's attorney, at the hearing Thursday. "Where is the fairness in that?" Kenneth Miller's mother told the jury her son became withdrawn as a preteen because he wanted to know about his biological father, whom he had never met. Eventually, she testified, Kenneth began to look up to his uncle, Gregory, whom some family members saw as violent. "I didn't approve of the relationship," said Minola Miller, who is Gregory's sister. "I just felt like [Gregory] was a bad influence on him." She asked the jury to save her son's life, noting that he had once been on Prozac and other medication, and in at least three 3 institutions. "I'm sorry for the Barry family and the Love family," she said, wiping away tears. "I ask the jury to have mercy on my son. This is a tragedy for everybody. Everybody loses here." Marcus Lloyd's attorney, James Lammendola, said his client had a borderline intelligence level, had grown up neglected, and was given to his grandmother when he was 3 years old. Lloyd's grandmother said her grandson had frequently offered to run to the store to pick up her medication. "Marcus was a fine young man. . . . He didn't do it. Honest," said Lozelle Lloyd. Assistant District Attorney John Doyle defended the plea bargain with Blakeney, saying: "The commonwealth did what it had to do to get the others. We used one killer to get the others." And he said Kenneth Miller and Lloyd deserved to die in part because they killed Love and Barry to get rid of any witnesses to the robbery. "Death, nothing else," Doyle told the jury. "This cries out for it." Kenneth Miller and Marcus Lloyd were stunned. They expected life sentences for taking part in the "execution-style" killings of Center City lawyer Charles Love, 60, and his aide, Brian Barry, 22, on Feb. 25, 1998. After all, the admitted triggerman, Herbert Blakeney, has been promised life for ratting on them. But a jury returned two death sentences against each defendant. Their families wept. The families of the slain men showed no emotion. After Common Pleas Judge James J. Fitzgerald formally imposed the terms, Miller, lost his composure. "I don't understand how," he sighed. "The admitted killer wound up with life. I had nothing to do with it." Lloyd kept shaking his head. As he was being led from the courtroom, he turned toward his relatives and said, "Don't worry, I'll see you all in a year." "I am very pleased with the death sentences," said Assistant District Attorney John J. Doyle. "I think they were very appropriate under the law and the evidence and richly deserved. This was a horrible crime. If any crime cried out for the death penalty, this was it," added Doyle. "It was an absolutely sickening atrocity." Defense lawyers James Lammendola and Thomas W. Moore criticized the jury. "The verdict is outrageous, given the fact that the shooter gets life," said Lammendola. Moore said he was "disappointed and surprised" at the decision. "I've never seen this happen in my 20 years of practice," he added. He said he also couldn't understand how the jury acquitted Kenneth Miller's uncle, Gregory Miller, 34, "who was said to have set this whole thing up," only of conspiracy. Love's sister said she thought justice was done. "I'm glad it's over," said Wayne Barry, the victim's father. "Maybe we can start rebuilding our life." Asked if he was satisfied with the jury's penalty, Barry said, "Satisfied is not the right word. I will still not have a son tomorrow." Doyle said Gregory Miller was Love's client and hired Blakeney, Kenneth Miller and Lloyd to rob and kill the attorney in his office on Spruce Street near 10th. The prosecutor said Gregory Miller mistakenly believed that Love had cheated him out of a $10,000 settlement in a civil case. He told the killers to "leave no witnesses." Blakeney, 20, admitted shooting the two victims in the backs of their heads after Love was forced to write a check for $10,000. One of the bandits unsuccessfully tried to cash it.  UPDATE: A judge stayed the execution of a man convicted of murder in the execution-style killing of a lawyer and a paralegal. Kenneth Miller, who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on March 11, was granted the stay by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge James J. Fitzgerald III. Miller, 25, was convicted in 1999 for his role as co-conspirator in the slaying of attorney Charles Love and paralegal Brian Barry in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, 1998.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 15, 2004   Kentucky Helen Madden, 62  Donald Johnson stayed

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher set an execution date for a man convicted of murdering and sexually abusing a 62-year-old laundry attendant in Hazard in 1989. Donald Herb Johnson, 36, was sentenced to death in 1997 in Floyd County after being convicted in the stabbing death of Helen Madden. Helen’s body was found on November 30, 1989 at the laundry in Hazard where she was employed. On November 29, 1989, Johnson came to the Bright and Clean Laundry and asked Madden if he could use the telephone. After Helen refused, Johnson allegedly stabbed her at least 24 times, repeatedly bit her, beat her beyond recognition and then disemboweled her. It was determined that she had also been sexually assaulted. Johnson testified that when he asked Helen Madden if he could use the phone again, she said, "Are you crazy? You have to go.'" Johnson had pleaded guilty to murder in 1994, but his sentencing was delayed through a series of appeals. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed in 1997 to have Special Circuit Judge John David Caudill conduct a sentencing hearing without a jury; that hearing concluded early in September of 1997. Caudill said he based his decision for the death sentence on Johnson's own testimony during the hearing. "You killed her for no other reason than she would not let you use the phone." Johnson testified that he had been smoking marijuana and ingesting cocaine the day Helen was slain. Governor Fletcher signed a death warrant setting March 15 as the execution date. The move triggers deadlines for filing appeals. Attorney General Greg Stumbo asked the governor to set the execution date last month. Susan Balliet, one of Johnson's attorneys, said he is entitled to "several more appeals" before the execution could be set. Fletcher was "premature" in setting the execution date and would end up costing the state more money because of that, Balliet said. Johnson is mentally ill and "certainly should not be executed," she said. Assistant Attorney General David Smith, who prosecuted the case and handled Johnson's initial appeal, said he expected the process to "drag on" because of multiple appeals. Still, Smith said he agreed with the decision. "We're pleased that the governor is taking the position that he is going to enforce Kentucky's death-penalty laws," Smith said.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 18, 2004   Virginia Tessa Van Hart  Brian Cherrix executed

Exactly 10 years after the murder of island resident Tessa Van Hart, the state has set an execution date for her killer. Brian Lee Cherrix, 30, is scheduled to die March 18 at 9 p.m. for the Jan. 27, 1994 slaying of Van Hart, said Katherine Baldwin, senior assistant state attorney general. Van Hart's widower, who received news of the execution date on Tuesday -- 10 years to the day after the murder -- expressed his relief. "Good, it will be done and over with," said Walter "Bink" Van Hart. "It will put some closure on everything." Tessa Van Hart, a 23-year-old mother of two, worked at an island pizza and sandwich shop. When she failed to return from a pizza delivery on the night of her slaying, her husband, police and others searched for her. She was found dead on Small Piney Island just hours after she disappeared. She had been sodomized and shot twice in the head, her body left in the back seat of her car. The execution will be held in the death chamber at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. Cherrix is now at Sussex I State Prison in nearby Waverly. The attorney general's office is uncertain of the method of execution because Cherrix will be given a choice of death by lethal injection or by electrocution. If he does not choose, he will be executed by lethal injection. Walter Van Hart will attend the Thursday night execution, along with several members of his family. Tessa Van Hart's mother, Ida Bell Ward of near Pocomoke City, Md., also plans to attend with Van Hart's brothers and sisters, Walter Van Hart said. The Van Hart murder went unsolved for three years until Cherrix, who was in jail for the attempted murder of his half-brother, offered police information about the Van Hart crime in exchange for leniency. He told them he knew details of Van Hart's murder because his deceased cousin had told him. Cherrix eventually admitted twice to luring Van Hart to a deserted house and killing her after she rejected his romantic advances. He was convicted and sentenced to death based on his account of the crime and physical evidence, though he later recanted his confession, saying police harassed him into giving false statements. More recently, because of advances in forensic science, Cherrix was granted new DNA testing, which he said would show he didn't commit the crime. However, last year's testing of seminal fluid found in the victim's body proved inconclusive, and the tests consumed the remaining DNA evidence, leaving none for future testing. UPDATE: With no appeals or request for gubernatorial clemency pending, it appears Brian Lee Cherrix will be executed by injection tomorrow night. Cherrix, 30, was sentenced to die for the Jan. 27, 1994, capital murder of Tessa Van Hart on Chincoteague Island. Robert L. Jenkins Jr., one of Cherrix's lawyers, said Cherrix has decided not to seek clemency from Gov. Mark R. Warner and has instructed his lawyers not to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. Cherrix has asked state officials not to autopsy his body after his execution, as is the standard practice. He cited his religious beliefs in making the request. Jenkins said yesterday that "we are in the process of trying to negotiate a resolution. Nothing has been finalized, but we intend to reach a mutually agreeable solution in the next 24 hours." In 2001, Cherrix won a court order for more DNA testing in the case, but it turned out that there was not enough suitable genetic material to "amplify" for testing, said Michele J. Brace, another of Cherrix's lawyers. Van Hart, 23, was the mother of two young children. She was delivering pizzas for the Famous Pizza and Sub Shop where her husband, Walter "Binky" Van Hart, was a cook. A man called and ordered a pizza to be delivered to an address in the Small Piney Island area. Van Hart did not know the address was for an unoccupied summer residence. She left the restaurant with the pizza about 7:45 p.m. Police were called when she did not return. They found her in the back seat of her car parked behind a vacant house on McGee Lane, a mile or so from where she was to deliver the pizza. She had been shot twice in the head and sodomized. The undelivered pizza was in the front of the car. The murder went unsolved for more than 2 years. Then, in June 1996, Cherrix was being held in jail on unrelated charges when authorities said he offered to trade information about the Van Hart murder for leniency. He told authorities that a cousin, who had died in a car crash in 1995, told him details about the crime. However, the state police investigated his cousin's whereabouts the night of the murder and concluded he was not a suspect. Cherrix began serving a 9-year sentence for wounding his half-brother with a shotgun. Then, in April 1997, he was sent back to the Accomack County Jail on new charges, including grand larceny. On April 25, 1997, police say, they advised Cherrix of his Miranda rights and that he confessed to committing the Van Hart slaying. Cherrix took police and an Accomack County deputy sheriff to Chincoteague, to show them locations he described in his confession. He even pointed out where the murder weapon had been thrown into a creek. Cherrix was convicted and sentenced to death in early 1998. In a 2001 phone interview, however, Cherrix denied he committed the crime. He acknowledged he confessed to police but said he did so to get them to stop bothering him. UPDATE: Ida Bell Ward was afraid she wouldn't live to see this day. Since her daughter died, it has been what kept Ward going: the thought that she'd witness the end of the man who took Tessa from her. Tomorrow is the day she's been awaiting. At 9 p.m., Ward will sit with her remaining children behind a glass wall with one-way visibility. Then the door of the execution chamber will open, and there he'll be -- Brian Cherrix of Chincoteague Island, Va., the man who stole everything from her.  Correctional officers will lead him to a gurney, where he'll be strapped down. He'll be allowed a few moments to speak with a spiritual adviser, who then will leave. Curtains will close around the gurney. The execution team will insert intravenous needles into 30-year-old Cherrix's arms. The curtains will reopen, and the first of three death-inducing chemicals will be injected into him.  Within minutes, Cherrix will stop breathing and his heart will stop beating. He'll be dead -- just like Tessa, says Ward.  "It's an eye for an eye. That way, he'll be gone, too." Tomorrow night's execution will be the official end of the Cherrix case, one of the most infamous crimes in Shore history. Ten years of murder and suspicion, confession and denial, anger and unimaginable sorrow will culminate in the death of the man found guilty of the 1994 sodomy and murder of island resident Tessa Van Hart, a young wife and mother. After a final report confirming his death, media coverage of the case will come to a halt. Cherrix's body will be buried, his face unlikely to appear on television or in newspapers again. There will be closure. At least, that's what they hope. Two weeks before the execution, there were two women who spoke of closure. Their lives unwittingly and unwillingly linked by the tragedy, both wanted tomorrow night to arrive -- to get it over with. Ward hopes she'll find a measure of peace with the death of the man she calls a monster. After the execution, she plans a visit to Van Hart's grave near her home here. She wants Tessa to know her death has been avenged. The other woman, Louise Cherrix -- the grandmother who raised Brian Cherrix -- also hopes to find peace after the execution. She says there will be a measure of comfort in knowing that when she dies, her grandson won't be left with no one who cares about him. "I'm sorry for what he's done, but I don't love him any less for him having done it," says Louise Cherrix. The Cherrix story is not short on tragic figures. In addition to Ward, there is Walter "Binky" Van Hart, the victim's husband, who helped police search for his wife when she failed to return from a pizza delivery to the shop where they both worked. Officers found her near the murder scene in the back seat of her Pontiac, the engine running, the pizza still in the car. She had been shot twice in the head. Tessa Van Hart also had a sister and two brothers who accompanied Ward to the island that night, Jan. 27, 1994, to look for her. Other family members were close to her as well. Then there are Van Hart's children, Corra and Little Bink, who have grown up without a mother and sometimes still cry for her. Ward says the boy suffers especially with feelings of guilt. He was just 2 when his mother died. Sometimes he cries because he can't remember her. Corra, now 15, is the image of her mother. "Sometimes I even call her Tessa," Ward says. The children are what Louise Cherrix remembers, too. She wipes away tears when thinking about the Van Hart children's loss. But some people will feel no sympathy for Louise Cherrix, recalling that during the trial, she tried to give her grandson an alibi for the night of the murder. She says he didn't tell her until later that he was guilty. Still, she can't help but love him. "I'm not sorry for anything I've done for him," she says.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 19, 2004   South Carolina Spencer Guerry, 37 David Hill executed

On March 7,1994, Spencer Guerry, the 37-year-old Deputy Police Chief of Georgetown on the South Carolina coast, was shot after he stopped the car David Hill was driving. The car pulled over in the parking lot of a car wash. Hill was driving a silver Honda Prelude with expired Colorado license plates.  Hill did not have a valid driver's license and had marijuana in the car. Officer Guerry took Hill's Colorado identification card and car registration and called the information in to the dispatcher. As he was walking back to Hill's car, he was shot once through the cheek. Despite being shot in the face, the officer managed to radio for help. A tape recording of his call revealed that he muttered a few words only, including "...shot me''. Spencer Guerry died two days later, becoming the first police officer to die in the line of duty in Georgetown for almost a century.  After the shooting, Hill drove to his house, picked up his girlfriend and some of his belongings, and then drove to his mother's mobile home. He told his mother he was in trouble and asked if they could borrow her car. His mother refused but offered to drive. Hill's mother and girlfriend followed him down a dirt road where Hill drove his car into a ditch. They then returned to his mother's mobile home and Hill asked his girlfriend to report his car stolen. She refused. Hill left the mobile home for a while. During his absence, the police arrived searching for him. Later, Hill returned to his mother's mobile home. He took a shower, washed his clothes, and poured Clorox on his hands. He then called the police and was arrested. Hill's defense at trial was that someone had been hiding in his backseat and shot Officer Guerry. At trial, several witnesses testified that Hill was the only person in the Honda.  Major Guerry was a fifteen-year police veteran and the father of two young boys and the husband of an elementary school teacher. Deputy Chief Guerry grew up in the Jamestown section of Berkeley County, graduated from Macedonia High School in 1974, was hired as a city policeman in 1979 at age twenty, and was promoted through the ranks thereafter. C. Spencer Guerry's name has been engraved at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. His name can be located on panel 44, E -19. A plaque bearing C. Spencer Guerry's name is displayed at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Hall of Fame in Columbia. While attending an appellate hearing for Hill, Spencer Guerry's widow Sally said because she had never attended a post-conviction relief hearing before, she had no idea what to expect. "The waiting is the hardest thing for Hill's family and for me," the 1st-grade teacher said. She said her sons, Ryan, 11, and James, 14, opted not to attend the hearing so they could qualify to play soccer after school. "Their father would want them at that soccer game," she said. UPDATE: A federal judge has stopped the March 19 execution of a man convicted of killing a Georgetown police officer, but the state attorney general's office says it will appeal the order. Lawyers for David Clayton Hill had sued, saying lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. They also had problems with how South Carolina carries out executions. Federal District Judge David Norton agreed, saying in his ruling Thursday that Hill has legitimate points about the state's lack of methods to ensure the doses of three drugs used in the procedure are calculated properly. Norton's ruling also mentioned the state uses a smaller amount of one of the drugs than the federal government and other states, and prison officials don't require a medical professional to oversee the execution. "It would indeed be odd to deny a temporary injunction to an inmate who will suffer loss of life under possibly cruel and unusual circumstances on the ground that the state is entitled to finality," Norton wrote. The judge said the execution should be halted until the U.S. Supreme Court considers an Alabama case where a condemned man says lethal injection is cruel and unusual for him because he has a vascular condition and authorities might have to cut through his tissues to start the injection. Hill had exhausted all his other appeals in state and federal court. Lawyers for the attorney general's office will appeal the ruling early next week. If the stay is lifted, the execution could go on. In a series of lethal injection complaints across the country in the last few months, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied stays even when they were granted by lower federal courts. In only one case, from Virginia, the high court allowed the stay of execution because the prisoner also has a similar problem with his veins. In papers filed Monday, prosecutors include a sworn statement from a doctor who visited Hill on death row last week. After looking at Hill's arms, Dr. Ryan Hutchinson said he doesn't think there will be a problem finding a vein at Hill's execution. The news of Hill's reprieve stunned Guerry's wife. "When I heard about the stay, the wind went out of me," Sally Guerry said.  UPDATE: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a stay of execution Wednesday for convicted killer David Clayton Hill. Hill, 39, who was sentenced to death for killing Georgetown police Maj. Spencer Guerry at a traffic stop in 1994, is arguing that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. Attorney General Henry McMaster said his office would immediately file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hill was scheduled to be put to death Friday, but a federal judge granted a stay March 4. McMaster said he hopes the high court will rule in his favor by midnight Friday. In a two-paragraph order, the appellate court said it would stay the execution while the U.S. Supreme Court considers an Alabama case. A condemned man there has said lethal injection is cruel and unusual for him because he has a vascular condition and authorities might have to cut through his tissue to start the injection. "But this defendant makes no allegation like that," McMaster said. "There's an affidavit where the doctor says his arm and veins are perfectly suitable. ... This is an abuse of the process." The state's has included a sworn statement from a doctor who has visited Hill on death row. After looking at Hill's arms, Dr. Ryan Hutchinson said he doesn't think there will be a problem finding a vein at Hill's execution. The state also argued that other executions have been allowed to continue despite the unresolved Alabama case. Attorneys for Hill have said the state has not administered enough sedative in some lethal injections since 1995, when South Carolina began using the execution method. Citing toxicology reports from executed inmates, Hill's attorneys said some may have been conscious when the lethal dose was administered. "Mr. Hill was pleased," said his attorney Jerome Nickerson, who wants an investigation into how the state conducts its lethal injections. Nickerson said Hill's lethal injection case is different "because Hill is the only individual in the United States that's presenting blood and toxicology evidence in support of his argument. ... Nobody else has done it before." McMaster's office has filed an affidavit from the state toxicologist that says a correlation between sedative levels after death and before death "cannot be made with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty." South Carolina uses three drugs to kill condemned inmates. The first drug is a sedative, the second is a drug that paralyzes muscles and can stop breathing and the third is potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Hill's sister, Debbie Nesbitt, told The (Charleston) Post and Courier she was too upset to talk about the case. Sally Guerry, the slain officer's wife, received a round of calls from group members when news of the stay came out Tuesday. "You're in limbo," Guerry told the newspaper. "You don't know what to do." UPDATE: Smiles and hugs of support were passed around during the dedication of the C. Spencer Guerry Law Enforcement Center on Tuesday afternoon. Former co-workers from the Georgetown Police Department, as well as Guerry's widow, Sally Guerry, shared stories about the slain officer and how he would be pleased with the modern facility that opened in September on Highmarket Street. The Georgetown Law Enforcement and Municipal Court complex, built several blocks from where Guerry was shot, contains a 911 center, a police center and a municipal court. The Police Department, located in one wing of the building, was named for Guerry. Guerry's picture, taken during FBI training at Quantico, Va., hangs in the lobby. "We're here to celebrate the life of a wonderful man," Sally Guerry said. "Few people see their dreams realized after their death." Tuesday was the 10-year anniversary of Guerry's death. He was killed by David Hill during a traffic stop at the Georgetown Car Wash, also on Highmarket Street. Hill was convicted of Guerry's death in 1995. He was scheduled to receive a lethal injection March 19, but he received a stay of execution this week. Guerry's friend Ken Arthur attended the ceremony. Arthur, now a retired police officer, wept as he talked about Guerry. "Spencer was just the best person I've ever met," he said. The ceremony drew officers from Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties. Troopers from the S.C. Highway Patrol also attended the dedication. Guerry's mother, Jean Guerry, and his two sons, Ryan and James Guerry, listened as tributes were read in Guerry's honor. James Guerry, 18, is studying criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and wants to join the FBI. Ryan Guerry, 20, is taking business courses at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and will transfer to the University of South Carolina next year. "Spencer was the person who interviewed me and hired me," said Georgetown City Police Chief Dan Furr. "I was not impressed with the [the former Police Department building], but I was impressed by a young police captain named Spencer Guerry." The dedication was planned to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Guerry's death, Furr said. Guerry often talked about a bigger Police Department building. The C. Spencer Guerry Law Enforcement Center has about 17,000 square feet. Officers moved from the 8,000-square-foot building on Fraser Street in September. UPDATE: The final appeal for convicted killer David Clayton Hill ended Friday as the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow his execution to continue. The announcement came a few hours before Hill was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection and erases the reprieve he received 2 weeks ago. Hill, 39, was convicted of killing Georgetown Police Maj. Spencer Guerry, who was shot in the head during a traffic stop 10 years ago. Hill's identification card and registration were found in Guerry's shirt pocket. A federal judge issued a stay two weeks ago while Hill's lawyers argued that the way South Carolina performs lethal injections is cruel and unusual punishment. A federal appeals court upheld the delay this week, but the state attorney general's office appealed the stay to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer objected to the high court's decision to lift the stay. Attorneys for Hill also had filed an emergency appeal with the state Supreme Court, which was denied Friday. Gov. Mark Sanford also had not issued a reprieve by Friday afternoon. "It's over," said defense lawyer Margaret Webster. Lead attorney Jerome Nickerson had no immediate comment. Hill was moved to Broad River Correctional Institution on Friday morning in preparation for the execution, Webster said. Justice finally is being served, said state Attorney General Henry McMaster. "The only cruel and unusual punishment in this whole thing is the wait the Guerry family has had to endure over all these years," McMaster said. In his most recent appeals, Hill's lawyers made the same argument that the chemicals South Carolina uses to put inmates to death cause an extreme amount of anguish and are cruel and unusual punishment. Similar appeals have failed. At least 6 times in January, inmates who claimed lethal injection was unconstitutionally cruel have been sent to the death chamber by 5-4 votes of the U.S. Supreme Court. UPDATE: David Clayton Hill neither apologized nor confessed before he was put to death at 6:17 p.m. Friday for the 1994 murder of Georgetown police Maj. Spencer Guerry. Hill, 39, glanced briefly at the witnesses, including Sally Guerry, Spencer Guerry's widow, and smiled. "He just smiled; I don't know who he was smiling at," Sally Guerry said. Last-ditch appeals to the state Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Mark Sanford on grounds that the state's lethal injection methods could be cruel and unusual punishment all failed Friday, and the execution was carried out as scheduled. 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. "I know I made the right decision, I do," she said. She had to watch on behalf of her husband, she said. Her sons, Ryan, who will be 21 next week, and James, 18, chose not to attend and were in Columbia with friends. Sally Guerry said she thought about her husband while watching the lethal chemicals being pumped into Hill's veins. "I thought about my husband, I really did. I looked at the medication going into him, and I thought about how peaceful it was for him and how violent it was for Spencer," she said. They had been together 19 years, half their lifetimes, when he died, she said, and her sons have grown up without a father. Asked whether Hill's execution gave her final comfort, she said no. When asked, Mrs. Guerry said she was not surprised Hill offered no apology or showed no remorse. "I didn't expect one," she 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.  15th Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree also witnessed the execution. He commended former Solicitor Ralph Wilson, who prosecuted the case. "This was clearly a case that warranted the death penalty," Hembree said. He also said he was not surprised Hill did not use his last words to apologize. "It would be appropriate to express some form of remorse," Hembree said. "He chose not to do that, and I think that is a comment on his nature." 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." Georgetown Police Chief Dan Furr, who was a captain on the force when Guerry was killed, said justice had been done. 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 was struck today by the very humane action in which Mr. Hill died," Furr said. "I was on the scene when Spencer was killed, it was very different." Guerry hired him, and they were close, Furr said. "I miss him tremendously today. I think of him often," he said. Hill, who worked in restaurants up and down the beach for years and knew good food and wine, asked only for a bottle of Dom Perignon, an expensive champagne, as his last meal. The state denied that request, said prisons spokesman John Barkley. So Hill's last meal was whatever prisoners had for supper, he said. Hill's witnesses were his brother, Jeff Scott, and a minister, identified only as Father Andrew. Both left without speaking to reporters. Sally Guerry, a devout Catholic whose denomination generally opposes the death penalty, wrestled with the issue. In the end, she took the approach that "it's not me versus David Hill." It was the state of South Carolina that found him guilty and sentenced him, she said.  

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 23, 2004    Oklahoma Hai Hong Nguyen  Hung Thanh Le  executed

On November 12, 1992, Hai Hong Nguyen, his wife Thuy Tiffany Nguyen, and Hung Thanh Le became involved in an altercation that led to the death of Hai Hong Nguyen, to serious physical injury to Mrs. Nguyen, and to the conviction of Le for assault and battery, robbery, and first-degree murder. Le, a Vietnamese refugee, met Hai Hong in a refugee camp in Thailand in the mid-1980s. They became friends, and both later immigrated to the United States. Hai Hong settled in Oklahoma City, where he and his wife owned and operated a beauty salon. Le settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a machinist. According to Le, he and Hai Hong had planned to go into business together by opening a machine shop in Oklahoma City. On July 4, 1992, Le flew to Oklahoma City, visited with Hai Hong, and met Mrs. Nguyen for the first time. Le alleges that at this time he gave the Nguyens $10,000 as initial capital for the machine shop. By September of 1992, however, Le's family had arrived in the United States. Le asserts that because of his family's arrival, he wanted to reclaim the $10,000. Whatever the purpose for his visit, Le returned to Oklahoma City again in November 1992. During the week of November 2, 1992, Le briefly stopped by the Nguyens' house in the early morning and told them that he was returning home to Cleveland after having secured a job in Texas. On November 9, 1992, Le again appeared at the Nguyens' house, and they offered him a place to stay. Le, after claiming to have lost his wallet, went shopping with the Nguyens on November 10. Mrs. Nguyen testified that Hai Hong gave Le $200 on that occasion. On November 11, Le went to the salon with the Nguyens, borrowed their car, returned to their home, removed their home stereo without their knowledge, and then mailed the stereo to himself in Ohio. Le returned the car that afternoon so that Mrs. Nguyen could pick up her daughter, Carolyn, after school. When the Nguyens returned home that evening accompanied by Le, they noticed the missing stereo. A search of the house revealed no other missing items and no signs of a forcible entry. Le told the Nguyens that he did not know what happened to the stereo and that he had an expensive personal bag that was also missing. Mrs. Nguyen testified that the next morning--November 12--she was called from her bed by her husband's words, "Honey, Hung kill me." She ran into the living room of their house and found her husband covered in blood. Mrs. Nguyen dialed 911 and requested help. She next saw her husband try to pick up an 18-inch long metal bar from a barbell set that had apparently been used by Le to hit Hai Hong Nguyen. Mrs. Nguyen stopped him, telling her husband that she had called the police. At this point Le returned to the living room from the kitchen, brandishing a 13-inch long knife and a 7-inch long meat cleaver. According to Mrs. Nguyen, Le was visibly upset and angry, and she asked him to stop his attack. Le then attempted to corner Hai Hong with the weapons. When Le tried to reach for Hai Hong, a struggle ensued into which Mrs. Nguyen interceded, receiving knife wounds to her head and hands. Mrs. Nguyen then retreated to the front door, but she was unable to open it. As Le pulled Hai Hong towards the front door, Mrs. Nguyen sat down next to the television, shielding her injuries, and pleaded with Le to stop his attack. Mrs. Nguyen then watched Le stab her husband in the chest. According to Mrs. Nguyen, when her husband fell down onto the coffee table and couch, Le proceeded to hack at the back of Nguyen's neck with the meat cleaver. Mrs. Nguyen's account of the events, which was uncontested at trial, is that Le responded to her pleas by telling her that he would kill her, too, for calling the police. At some point, Hai Hong apparently asked Le why he was attacking them, and Le responded that he had been hired by someone to kill the Nguyens for $20,000. Le apparently then told Mrs. Nguyen to write him a check for this amount, but she responded that they did not have that amount of money. As her husband lost consciousness, Mrs. Nguyen ran back to the door and made it outside, finding an ambulance on the street. The two paramedics who had arrived on the scene were waiting for the police before entering the Nguyens' house. When Mrs. Nguyen exited the house, they treated her wounds. While the paramedics treated Mrs. Nguyen, Le collected Nguyen's wallet, the Nguyens' keys, and a suit. Le then left the house and drove away in the Nguyens' car. One paramedic testified that he saw Le surveying the scene nonchalantly while driving away. After learning that there was nobody else in the house, one of the paramedics entered, accompanied by two police officers who had just arrived. The paramedic testified that he saw Hai Hong writhing on the ground, stating, "[H]elp me, help me, I'm dying, I'm dying." Hai Hong also asked the paramedic to help his wife, telling the paramedic that she had been hurt, too. Hai Hong had multiple stab wounds to his chest, neck, head, abdomen, and arms, and he subsequently went in to hypovolemic shock and cardiac arrest before arriving at the hospital. At the hospital, Hai Hong went into full cardiac arrest and died. After leaving the Nguyens' house, Le began driving towards Dallas, stopped at a ditch to wash the blood off his body, and then returned to Oklahoma City. At some point after the events of that morning, Le went to the Nguyens' bank and, assuming Nguyen's identity, used the Nguyens' safety deposit box key to open their safety deposit box. Le removed $36,000 in cash and two diamond rings, leaving the box empty. Le left the Nguyens' car at the bank with blood and his fingerprints on it. That day, Le also bought expensive new clothes and paid cash to a downtown travel agent for a one-way first class airline ticket to Cleveland. The ticket was issued under the name Paul Koring. The following day--Friday, November 13, 1992--after placing bets at Remington Park, an equine racetrack in Oklahoma City, Le was apprehended at the Will Rogers World Airport by a police officer who recognized his description. Le claimed his name was Paul Koring and that his identification had been stolen. When Le failed to produce identification, the officer took him into custody and searched him for weapons. During the search, the police officer found Nguyen's wallet and a briefcase containing the Nguyens' safety deposit box key, the Nguyens' car keys, and $34,966.37 in cash. After his arrest, Le was booked at the police station, and his interrogation was videotaped. During the interrogation, he waived his Miranda rights and recounted his version of the events. Le admitted coming to Oklahoma City with the intent of robbing the Nguyens. He admitted to knowing beforehand about the safety deposit box and the address of the bank, but he said he never intended to kill Nguyen. He admitted having taken the Nguyens' stereo and mailing it to Ohio, and he said that Hai Hong had confronted him about the theft the morning of the murder. He told the officers that the morning of November 12--even before being confronted by Hai Hong about the stereo--he intended to rob Hai Hong by knocking him out with the metal pipe from the weightlifting set. Le admitted striking Hai Hong and noted that Hai Hong remained conscious after receiving the blow. Le claimed that Hai Hong then threatened to kill Le if he did not stop, at which point Le said he ran into the kitchen and grabbed only one knife. Le claimed that Hai Hong hit him on the forearm, to which Le responded by stabbing Hai Hong five times. Le claimed that at this point, Hai Hong collapsed on the coffee table. Le admitted to having told Mrs. Nguyen that he was hired to kill her and hitting her as a warning. He then confirmed the rest of the events after the homicide. Le did not mention the business plans he allegedly had with the Nguyens, although he suggested he knew the Nguyens had at least $10,000 in their safety deposit box. UPDATE: Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry granted a 30-day stay of execution to a Vietnamese national on Wednesday so that he will have time to consider a pardon board recommendation that the sentence be commuted. Hung Thanh Le, 34, was scheduled to be put to death on Jan. 6 for the 1992 slaying of fellow Vietnamese refugee Hai Hong Nguyen over a $10,000 business deal gone bad. The state's Pardon and Parole Board voted a week ago to recommend commuting Le's sentence on the grounds that Le was not notified under international law that he could report his case to his consulate or embassy. If his death sentence is commuted, Le will most likely be sentenced to life in prison. Henry said in a statement he plans to personally interview both prosecution and defense attorneys in the case as well as review evidence presented to the pardon board. "I want this case to go through the same deliberative process as previous clemency recommendations, and the only way to do that is by ordering a temporary stay," Henry said. Le was convicted for the 1992 beating and stabbing death of Nguyen after the two argued over $10,000, which Le had given Nguyen for a business partnership. Le hit Nguyen with a metal bar and stabbed him with a butcher knife, according to evidence presented in court.  UPDATE: A condemned man was denied a stay of execution today by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Hung Thanh Le, 37, is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. today for the 1992 stabbing death of Hai Hong Nguyen, 34. Nguyen was attacked with a butcher knife and a meat cleaver while Le was a guest in his home, prosecutors said. His execution has been delayed previously. Le's application for a stay of execution was filed Tuesday by Lanita Henricksen, his attorney. The application said that staying Le's execution will ensure that the constitutional violations suffered by him can be fully reviewed and analyzed by the court of Criminal Appeals. Le's execution originally was set for Jan. 6. Gov. Brad Henry ordered a stay after the state Pardon and Parole Board recommended that he not be executed. His attorneys argued to the pardon and parole board that Le had not been told he had the right to contact Vietnamese authorities, a right attorneys said is guaranteed by the Vienna Convention. After reviewing the case, Henry chose not to commute Le's death sentence and he was scheduled to die Feb. 26. Henry granted a second stay within an hour of Le's scheduled execution after the Vietnamese government asked for more time to review the case. UPDATE: Oklahoma executed a Vietnamese national on Tuesday who killed a fellow refugee over a business deal gone bad, despite a state parole board recommendation to commute his death sentence. "I would like to apologize to both families. I can't take back what happened. I hope my death will help replace the hatred for each other," Le said in his final statement. "Instead of hatred, love each other. Life is very short."

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 26, 2004   Nevada Frank Rosenstock, 76 Lawrence Colwell, Jr. executed

Convicted killer Lawrence Colwell Jr., told a federal judge in clear terms that he wants to proceed with his execution at 9 p.m. on March 26. "Am I certain I want to be executed?" Colwell said to U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben. "I'm 99.99 percent certain that I do. Because I'm tired of this." After an 80-minute hearing during which McKibben repeatedly asked Colwell about his intentions, the former Oregon resident who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Las Vegas in 1995 did not waver. McKibben also asked questions to determine if Colwell was competent to proceed with his death by lethal injection and if he knew what it would mean to die.  "Yes, I understand the difference between life and death," Colwell said.  McKibben found that Colwell was competent to proceed with his execution.  There is no evidence of mental illness or other factor that would lead to a different conclusion, the judge said. Colwell, wearing prison-issued blue jeans and blue shirt, was articulate and polite throughout the hearing, saying "yes, sir" or "no, sir" to McKibben's repeated questions. McKibben did allow an appeal filed by Colwell to remain active in U.S. District Court, which will give the inmate a chance up to the last minute to change his mind. Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta will also remain as Colwell's attorney, but he told McKibben he would not seek a stay of execution unless Colwell told him to do so. McKibben expressed a concern that Colwell could manipulate the court system by waiting until the last moment to seek a stay. The judge said he was not interested in any "procedural games." But McKibben also said he would grant any request by Colwell to stop the execution because issues he has raised on appeal remain unresolved. Colwell said it is not his intention to change his mind at the last minute. "I really don't believe it will go to the 11th hour," he said. If he changes his mind, Colwell said he would seek a stay by no later than March 24. Colwell pleaded guilty in 1995 to first-degree murder for strangling and robbing elderly Florida tourist Frank Rosenstock in 1994. Colwell's death sentence stems from the slaying of Frank Rosenstock on March 10, 1994, at the Tropicana. The slaying occurred after Colwell's girlfriend, Merillee Paul, lured Rosenstock to his room, then called Colwell to carry out a robbery. Colwell strangled Rosenstock with a belt. Afterward, prosecutors said, Colwell and Merrilee Paul returned to their motel "and had sex and breakfast." Paul pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Colwell pleaded guilty to the murder as well and then appeared before a three-judge panel for a sentencing hearing in 1995. Colwell represented himself during the hearing. "I took his life for no reason," he told the judges. "No reason at all. It wasn't for the money. It was for the kicks of it, I guess." "It was like taking a walk in the park, taking a drive down the street," Colwell said. "The act itself was committed that easily, and it was uncalled for." During the hearing, Colwell stopped short of saying he wanted to die, but he did nothing to try to prevent his death sentence. He called no witnesses on his behalf and while questioning prosecution witnesses, he portrayed himself in the worst possible light. "The victim died," Colwell said. "I murdered him in cold blood." McKibben also queried Colwell about his appeal on file with the U.S. District Court, noting that his sentence of death could be vacated if some of his claims are upheld. In particular, the judge asked Colwell if he was aware that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to make retroactive a previous decision finding sentencing by three-judge panels is unconstitutional. Colwell, who was sentenced by a three-judge panel after pleading guilty, could be affected by the decision, McKibben said. Colwell said he was aware of the review but that he wanted to proceed anyway. "I'm just ready," he said. Frank Rosenstock's son, Terry Rosenstock, said from New York that he and his sister are making plans to attend the execution of their father's killer. "It is a very awkward feeling," Rosenstock said. "You are going to watch someone die, and it is going to affect us. "We were taught that life is very precious. But at the same time, this is something I have to do," Rosenstock said.  Authorities said Colwell had been in trouble with the law since he was 12 - for running away from home, starting a fire, animal cruelty, burglary, theft, forgery, stealing a car and other crimes. At age 18, he was imprisoned for 5 years after a 1988 conviction for kidnapping an ex-girlfriend who had worked with him at a fast-food joint in Grants Pass, Ore. While in prison, records showed he seduced a female guard and bragged about it. Colwell had been out on parole for nearly a year when he killed Rosenstock and, according to prosecutors, had been talking about murdering someone since 1988. A former Oregon cellmate, who Colwell visited after the Las Vegas murder, provided the tip that led authorities to Colwell. Colwell had wound up in a Grants Pass jail for a parole violation after visiting his mother, Ruby Culp, at a trailer park in nearby Myrtle Creek. The former cellmate also described Colwell as threatening and manipulative, and said Colwell wanted him to join in robbing a military armory so they could steal weapons and form a militia-like criminal gang. Colwell, who used the alias Charles Durrant, also claimed to be part of a shadowy, white-only group called "Merces Constrada" which he said was Latin for "Mercenary of the Country." Court records also note letters from Colwell to various public and police agencies asking them to investigate a conspiracy to "get him," and letters to then-President Clinton and Hillary Clinton warning them of dangerous gang activity. Colwell has told authorities he didn't want to grant any interview requests while he awaits execution. UPDATE: Las Vegas killer Lawrence Colwell wants to be well-groomed when he goes to his execution March 26 at the Nevada State Prison. Colwell has asked to receive a haircut and to have his teeth cleaned before he is put to death by lethal injection, prison spokesman Fritz Schlottman said. The inmate has been placed in protective custody in a single-bed cell. The section he is in has its own exercise yard. Schlottman described Colwell's demeanor as "matter-of-fact." Colwell has declined further court appeals and said he wants to be executed. But he has left the door open to renew his appeal and get a stay of execution from the federal court. He has said he will decide that issue by Wednesday. Colwell has declined to be interviewed by the press. Terry Rosenstock, the son of the victim, and Mindy Dinburg, the daughter, plan to attend the execution. Rosenstock said, "We have to," he said, "for closure." Rosenstock, of New York, said Colwell "did wrong by my father," and the killing "leaves a permanent mark on my life." Rosenstock said he and Dinburg, who lives in New Jersey, plan to arrive the night before the execution. Colwell has asked that his television, which was in storage, be returned to him, Schlottman said. Colwell has also asked for ice in his soft drinks. The prison does not have an ice-making machine, Schlottman said. The March 26 execution is expected to have an estimated 20 witnesses, including the family members and 10 members of the media, Schlottman said. On March 10, 1994, Colwell and his girlfriend Merillee Paul robbed and murdered 76-year-old Frank Rosenstock at the Tropicana. Rosenstock, of Florida, was handcuffed and strangled with a belt. Colwell and Paul fled to Oregon, where she turned herself in to authorities. She pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and testified against Colwell. She is serving a life term with the possibility of parole. The state initially did not seek the death penalty in the case, but Colwell offered to plead guilty to all charges if the state changed its position. At the penalty hearing before three judges, Colwell asked to be put to death. UPDATE: Condemned Nevada inmate Lawrence Colwell Jr., facing a 9 p.m. execution for strangling a Las Vegas tourist, had what prison officials term an overnight emotional change and asked to meet with a public defender's representative. "His emotional state has changed," Nevada State Prison spokesman Fritz Schlottman said, adding that Colwell had been talkative but Friday morning became quiet and asked to see a federal public defender's paralegal, Linda Lewis. Lewis had talked several times with Colwell in the days leading up to his scheduled execution by injection, and was to meet with some of his family members early Friday. Assistant federal defenders Michael Pescetta and Rebecca Blaskey boarded a plane in Las Vegas and planned to join Lewis at the prison. They were to arrive at about noon - the same time Colwell was to be moved to a "last night" cell next to the death chamber - the prison's old gas chamber. The events early Friday followed meetings on Thursday between Colwell and his father, Lawrence Colwell Sr. of Grants Pass, Ore., and with his godparents, Thomas and Dorothy Higgins of McGill, Nev. He recently became a Catholic. Earlier in the week, Colwell had met with a Catholic priest and his mother, Ruby Culp, who's from the Grants Pass area. Prison officials have moved ahead with plans for the execution, preparing staffers and taking Colwell's request for a last meal of pizza, a cheeseburger, french fries and ice cream. As of Thursday, he had left open the possibility of a last-minute stay. NSP Warden Mike Budge said Colwell still has left a "little 0.01 percent" window for a stay that the judge already has said he'd grant - but only if the inmate asks for it. Colwell, who has refused to grant media interviews, met with Budge and other prison officials who went over the execution procedures with him. He's also been making phone calls and has access to a television, but opted not to use a prison exercise yard. Colwell had told U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben on March 5 that he'd probably say by Wednesday whether he wanted a stay of his lethal injection. But that self-imposed deadline came and went with no final word from him.  UPDATE: 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. 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." Daugherty said he was "expressing my First Amendment rights in favor of the death penalty" because executions protect future victims from killers. "They can't go out and kill somebody else," he said. Colwell, an 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. 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.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 30, 2004   Texas Matt Vickers, 19,
Kimberly Williamson, 20
 
Edward Capetillo stayed

A Houston judge ordered that an inmate who was 17 when he murdered two people should be executed as scheduled this spring, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of capital punishment for juvenile crimes. Edward Capetillo, now 26, is scheduled for lethal injection March 30. State District Judge William Harmon denied a request from Capetillo's attorney that the execution be postponed pending the Supreme Court case slated for October. The high court's decision to consider the constitutionality of death for juvenile offenders casts a spotlight on Harris County, the nation's only jurisdiction with executions currently scheduled for crimes committed under age 18. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he plans to pursue the executions. "From our standpoint, it doesn't change anything," he said of the Supreme Court's announcement this week. "Until a court tells me differently, the executions are still on." Rosenthal noted that the Supreme Court found capital punishment constitutional in 1988 for crimes committed by people under age 18, and the state Court of Criminal Appeals has made similar findings. Capetillo was convicted in 1996 for orchestrating a robbery and killing two people at a Champions Park home on Jan. 16, 1995. He and two other teens killed Matt Vickers, 19, and Kimberly Williamson, 20. They severely wounded another teen, and one young woman fled to a neighbor's home for help. Afterward, Capetillo was reported to have said, "If the girls had been prettier, I would have raped them." His attorney, Elizabeth Derieux of Longview, declined to comment on the judge's ruling. Traditionally, some courts have stayed executions in cases that raise questions pending before the Supreme Court, legal experts said. "The normal, ordinary process is that the cases that present these questions are held in abeyance," said Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor. "The easy, simple way to do that is for everyone to agree. Apparently, that is not happening in this case." Two other Harris County killers who were younger than 18 when they committed their crimes are set for execution in June. Efrain Perez and Raul Omar Villarreal are to get lethal injections for their roles in the notorious 1993 gang-ritual rape and murder of two teenage girls. Villarreal's attorney, John Wynne, and Perez's attorney, Kevin Dunn, said they are considering options in state and federal courts. If the state courts do not push back the execution dates, a federal court probably will, said Rolando Del Carmen, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University. The Supreme Court will hear the case of Christopher Simmons of Missouri, who was 17 when he and an accomplice broke into a Fenton, Mo., woman's home in 1993. They bound her with electrical tape and pushed her off a railroad bridge to drown. Simmons told teenage friends that they would avoid punishment because of their young ages, prosecutors said. A Missouri court overturned Simmons' sentence, adopting the Supreme Court's thinking in its ban on executing people who have mental retardation. Since Simmons is no longer on death row, some observers suggest that the Supreme Court took the case with an eye toward reversing the appeals court. But at least four Supreme Court justices have publicly stated their opposition to execution for juvenile crimes. "The practice of executing such offenders is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society," justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer wrote in October 2002 in a dissenting opinion in a case involving a Kentucky man. Missouri and Texas are among 21 states that allow the execution of convicts who were younger than 18 when they committed their crimes. The death penalty is banned for those younger than 18 in capital crimes prosecuted in federal courts. Texas limits death sentences to those 17 and older, while some other states also make 16-year-olds eligible. Twenty-three other Texas inmates are on death row, but do not have execution dates, for crimes they committed as 17-year-olds. About 50 inmates in other states await execution for crimes committed at 16 or 17. Capetillo spearheaded the robbery that resulted in the murders and a take of only $18. Grant Barnett, 16 at the time, was wounded during what began as a robbery orchestrated by Capetillo, then 17, at the Vickers' home. According to testimony at the trial, Vickers had recently received $1,000 from an insurance settlement stemming from a car accident. He apparently told a number of people about the settlement, including Mike Wilson, a friend of both Vickers and Capetillo. Wilson, then 18, decided he and a friend, James Duke, then 19, and Duke's brother, Curtis, then 15, should have a share of the money, according to testimony. Capetillo joined in and became the group's leader, prosecutors said. Wilson was dispatched to the Vickers' home to scout out the scene while the others secured a stolen car, a .22-caliber rifer, a .38-caliber pistol and a ski mask, according to testimony. After arriving at the Vickers' home, Capetillo ordered Williamson and Matt Vickers' twin sister, Allison, downstairs at gunpoint while the others were sent to find Matt Vickers, according to court records. Capetillo demanded money, and Barnett produced all he had - $18, court records said. Allison Vickers escaped. Matt Vickers and Barnett each were shot three times. Capetillo chased Williamson through 3 rooms of the house before shooting her 3 times, according to court records. Afterward, Capetillo remarked that "if the girls had been prettier, I would have raped them," according to court records. This remark prompted one of his friends to turn him in, authorities said. Witnesses portrayed Capetillo as a well-liked student at Klein High School, one who played soccer in his spare time and came from a nice, hard-working family. But testimony showed he had a violent temper and was using LSD and cocaine. At the time of the slayings, he was free on bond on a charge of assaulting a soccer referee who ruled against him in a game.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 30, 2004    Ohio Christopher Lerch
Petty Lerch
Charles Morgan Marsh
William Wickline executed

William D. Wickline, convicted of a 1982 murder-dismemberment of a Columbus couple and charged in Wood County with the November 1979 murder-decapitation of Charles Morgan Marsh, has exhausted his appeals and is scheduled for execution on March 30. According to a spokesman for the Ohio Supreme Court clerk's office, motions to set Wickline's execution date were granted in December. Lethal injection is the means of execution used in Ohio. According to records from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, Wickline's last appeal was denied in January. Wickline was convicted by a three-judge court of 2 counts of aggravated murder in the death of a Columbus couple. The panel sentenced him to life in prison on one count and death on the other. According to records, Wickline had been using cocaine in his home with the couple when he stabbed and decapitated Christopher Lerch and strangled Petty Lerch during an argument over $6,000 in drug money. He cut up their bodies and placed them in trash bins in Columbus, according to investigators. Wickline, 51, was indicted in Wood County in April 1985 for the November 1979 decapitation of Charles Morgan Marsh at a Dry Run Road residence. Charleston attorney Harry G. Deitzler had just been appointed Wood County prosecutor at the time of the death, and he went to the Dry Run Road home that was the crime scene. "I received a call that there was a murder and that a victim's head had been severed. It was, for me as a young prosecutor, in part a learning experience and also an initiation into a major murder crime scene investigation," Deitzler said. At the beginning, there was suspicion it was a burglary committed upon a known drug dealer by his present or former associates. By the way the house was ransacked and appeared to have been searched, most of the investigators agreed whoever was there was looking for money, Deitzler said. The body was lying on a bed, the head was on a nearby night stand. About $30,000 in cash was found under the mattress, Deitzler said. The sheriff's office did the initial investigation, later state police became involved. Then-Trooper William Rectenwald was involved in the investigation and through statements of witnesses, officers discovered other matters and evidence that led to Wickline, Deitzler said. The prosecutor presented the case to a 1985 grand jury and an indictment was returned. After Wickline was convicted in the 1982 murder in Ohio and sentenced to death, Deitzler said his concern was making sure if that conviction or sentence was overturned, Wood County would get Wickline back here to be tried, and that Wickline not be released back into society. "The only way I could provide that insurance for the community was to pursue the indictment and if necessary, trial. We got the indictment and asked the judge for a capias for his arrest and extradition so we could try him on the charges here. If we just let him sit in Ohio then his speedy trial rights would prevent his trial at a later date," Deitzler said. Wickline's attorney objected to extradition, and contacted Deitzler. "We worked out an agreement whereby we would let him stay in Ohio and not try him, if he would waive his right to speedy trial. The agreement was executed, and that's why we were able to leave him a burden to Ohio taxpayers instead of spending West Virginia dollars on the case," Deitzler said. For each arraignment day for the past 18 years, the case has been called and the prosecutor's office has asked the warrant be kept active. "We will probably not dismiss the indictment until we have been notified that he has been executed," Prosecutor Ginny Conley said. Conley recalled hearing about the decapitation murder while still a teen. "Learning someone had actually been beheaded was horrifying," she said.  UPDATE: In Columbus, the Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday unanimously recommended denying clemency for a death row inmate convicted of killing a Columbus couple whose dismembered remains were discarded in trash bins. The 9-member board delivered its report to Gov. Bob Taft, who will decide whether to commute William D. Wickline's sentence to life in prison without parole. "Mr. Wickline has failed to accept the responsibility for the crimes he committed and has expressed no remorse," the board said in its 10-page decision. The bodies of Christopher and Peggy Lerch were never found after their August 1982 disappearance. Wickline, 51, was convicted chiefly based on the testimony of his former girlfriend, Teresa Kemp, who said Wickline slit Christopher Lerch's throat over a $6,000 drug debt, then strangled the unconscious Mrs. Lerch with a rope. The death sentence was for Mrs. Lerch's death because the three-judge panel that tried the case ruled she was killed to avoid detection in another crime. Wickline is to be executed by injection March 30 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. His attorney, David Stebbins, has said Wickline maintains he does not know what happened to the Lerches. Stebbins argued before the board last month that there was too little physical evidence to justify the death sentence and asked the board to consider Wickline's exemplary behavior while on death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution. "Kemp's testimony was at times unclear, with sequences of events and blocks of time merged and confused," the board wrote. "However, her testimony was consistent with an earlier statement and was corroborated by other evidence." Taft said Tuesday that his legal staff would review the case and report to him in a few days. He gave no timeline for when he would decide. A telephone message was left with Stebbins' office. Wickline was denied clemency in 1996 and scheduled to die, but a federal judge granted a stay, allowing an appeal to proceed. State and federal courts have since rejected Wickline's claims that he had ineffective trial attorneys. Pat Sheeran, an assistant Franklin County prosecutor who helped try the case, a Blendon Township detective and Mrs. Lerch's sister, planned to watch the execution as victims' witnesses. UPDATE: The shocking death of a man in Wood County, Ohio happened nearly 25 years ago. William Wickline was charged with the murder. Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block Tuesday morning's execution of Wickline for a 20-year-old Columbus murder. On the whole, Wood County doesn't have a lot of murders, so the death of Charles Morgan Marsh in the fall of 1979 was particularly gruesome, especially for a Wood County deputy with 2 years on the force who was experiencing his 1st murder case. "I was the 1st one in the door," says Charlie Johnson, now Chief Deputy for the Wood County Sheriff's Department. "I went through the door, doing a sweep through the room like we were taught. I went in, and that's when we discovered the decapitated body." The dismembered body of Marsh, a South Carolina man, was found in this home off Route 47. At the time, the murder was believed to be tied to an area drug ring. "I think the long and the short of it was that there was a message sent, and it was a drug deal gone bad," Johnson says. It wasn't until a similar case in Columbus came to the attention of local investigators nearly 5 years later, that investigators were able to link the Marsh murder to William Dean Wickline. Wickline was already serving time in prison for lesser offenses. "At the time," Trooper Russ Miller said in 1984, "the initial investigation revealed (Marsh) died of strangulation, and then was decapitated." Chief Deputy Johnson says the Marsh Murder case was a first for this area. It was the first time area law enforcement agencies joined forces on a single investigation. "Every agency in this county had some kind of role, following up on a lead, or giving some people up to help out in the investigation," Johnson recalls. "That was an indication that the task force was a good thing to have." Wickline was sentenced to death in 1985 for killing Peggy Lerch. He was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Lerch's husband, Christopher. UPDATE: The woman whose testimony sent her former boyfriend to death row says she's happy he was executed Tuesday. Teresa Kemp provided the chief evidence that led to the conviction of William D. Wickline by describing how he killed a Columbus couple over a drug debt and butchered their bodies in 1982. Kemp says she was 21 years old when she met Wickline and fell in love because he was handsome and bought her gifts and drugs. She says she feared him once she saw the killings, and lied to stay on his good side for 2 more years. Wickline was serving a four-year prison term for burglary when police came to Kemp. He denied the murders ever happened. Kemp says she feared he would kill her or her family after his release, and that she never would have talked if police hadn't told her they were seeking the death penalty.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
March 31, 2004   Virginia Richard Burnett, 39 Dennis Orbe executed

In August of 1998, a Yorktown, Virginia jury recommended that Dennis Orbe be put to death for the Jan. 24, 1998 murder of Richard Burnett. The jury of 10 women and 2 men, which had earlier found Orbe guilty of capital murder, deliberated about 4 1/2 hours before reaching the death penalty recommendation. Orbe's face displayed no emotion. The then 34-year-old Chester man stood with his hands clasped loosely behind his back, and, after the jury's decision was read, turned and whispered briefly to defense lawyer Andrew Protogyrou. Sitting behind him in the gallery, Orbe's mother, Brigitt Branch, quietly lifted her hand to her mouth and looked straight ahead. For a moment, silence blanketed the courtroom that earlier had boomed with argument over whether Orbe should die or serve a life prison term for shooting Richard Burnett, 39, during an early morning hold up of the Exxon convenience story in York County, where Richard worked as a night clerk. A videotape, made by the store's surveillance system and used as evidence in the trial, showed Orbe shooting Richard in the chest and taking money from the cash register. Judge Prentis Smiley set formal sentencing for Oct. 23. In addition to the death penalty, the jury recommended a 60-year-sentence for robbery and 2 firearms counts stemming from the incident. Although defense lawyers presented testimony that Orbe deeply regretted having killed Burnett, Orbe never took the stand to testify at either the trial or the sentencing hearing. The defense lawyers Protogyrou and Damian Horne said their client's refusal to testify may have forfeited his chance for a life sentence. "I think remorse would have gone a long way," Protogyrou said. Horne, more bluntly, said that "we wanted him to take the stand and beg for his life." He said Orbe was reluctant to confront the jury because he didn't trust how his emotions would stand up under cross-examination and because "he's resigned his fate to his maker." Cathy P. Linton, the girlfriend who was living with Burnett at the time of the murder, said the sentence pleased her. "This is what I wanted. I believe a life for a life." Commonwealth's Attorney Eileen M. Addison praised the jury for deciding that death was an appropriate punishment even though she said the murder "didn't have the vileness that a lot of these cases do." The jury recommended the death penalty on the grounds that Orbe would pose a continuing threat to society if allowed to live. "It's a tragic situation all the way around for both families," Addison said, referring to relatives of Orbe and of the man he murdered. "They're all victims." Orbe murdered Burnett during a 10-day crime rampage between Jan. 21 and Jan. 31 that also included assaults, shootings, break-ins and thefts in Richmond and in Chesterfield and New Kent counties. He has already pleaded guilty to crimes in New Kent and Richmond but still faces trial in Chesterfield. In his closing argument yesterday, Protogyrou asked the jury to consider that Orbe did not have an extensive criminal history and that he lashed out only after alcoholism and a failed marriage made his life go "haywire." Addison said in her closing statement that Burnett's killing was "a cold-blooded random act of violence done for absolutely no reason whatsoever....The consequences under our law is death, the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime." UPDATE: Barring a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, Dennis Orbe will be executed Wednesday night for robbing and murdering a York County convenience store clerk in 1998. Orbe said during a phone interview Monday that he was not aware he was being held only feet from the death chamber in L Building at the Greensville Correctional Center, where his execution is set for 9 p.m. Wednesday. "I'm sure it's here somewhere," he said. "It's kind of spooky." Orbe was moved recently to Greensville from death row at the Sussex I State Prison near Waverly. 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. "I didn't mean to" shoot Burnett, Orbe said in the interview. 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. "I didn't go in there planning to kill the man." Orbe said he feels remorse for murdering Burnett. "I feel horrible for about it. I'm responsible for taking another man's life." The slaying was the climax to a series of crimes Orbe committed after he and his wife separated, including abductions and robberies in Richmond and Chesterfield and New Kent counties. "Believe me the only thing I was thinking about was how to kill myself," he said. Asked why he didn't, Orbe said: "Good question. Maybe I didn't have the (courage) to." He said Monday that he didn't want to be executed. "No one wants to die, and I sure don't," he said. James Burnett told the Daily Press of Newport News that he still misses his younger brother, who was 39 when he was killed. "I'm of two minds," Burnett said of Orbe's impending execution. "I think, `Hey, you, off the planet! We don't need you here,'" he said. "But I also think I'd kind of like him to sit and stew about it for longer." Orbe has refused to seek clemency from Gov. Mark R. Warner. "It won't do any good. I just feel it's political suicide for him" to grant clemency. Orbe is challenging his execution in court on grounds lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. Asked what he thought his chances were of winning a stay, he said: "Not a chance in hell." UPDATE: A man was put to death by injection Wednesday night for robbing and murdering a convenience store clerk.  Asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Dennis M. 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 retreated to the witness booth.  Orbe's attorney wept silently in the back row of the booth. Orbe was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m. Other witnesses included York County Commonwealth's Attorney Eileen M. Addison and sheriff's 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."  Surveillance tape showed Orbe shooting clerk Rick Burnett in the chest at a York County convenience store in 1998. The tape showed that Burnett put up no resistance.  The slaying was part of a 10-day crime rampage that included abductions, assaults, robberies and break-ins in Richmond and Chesterfield and New Kent counties. The 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. 

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