CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Va. Man Executed For Killing Inmate

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By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006

Convicted killer Michael Lenz was executed by injection last night in Virginia's death chamber for fatally stabbing another inmate during a pagan religious gathering six years ago.

Lenz, 42, was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.

Lenz is the third person to be put to death in the state since Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) took office this year. Kaine, who has said he opposes capital punishment but has promised to uphold the state's death penalty laws, rejected a plea yesterday from Lenz's attorneys to spare his life.

"Having carefully reviewed the petition for clemency and judicial opinions regarding this case, I find no reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended by the jury and then imposed and affirmed by the courts," Kaine said in a written statement. "Accordingly, I decline to intervene."

Lenz was one of a handful of Virginia inmates to practice Asatru, an ancient religion that worships gods from Norse mythology. Guided by his devotion to Viking warrior god Thor and others, Lenz founded an Asatru prison chapter called Ironwood Kindred, which eventually became the center of a deadly prison power struggle that led to another inmate's death in 2000.

Lenz, a drifter from Prince William County who was convicted in 1993 of burglary and illegal firearm possession, and fellow inmate Jeffrey Remington formed the chapter while serving time at Augusta Correctional Center. The two led the chapter until another inmate, Brent Parker, a convicted murderer, tried to wrest control of the group and threatened to kill Lenz, according to court documents.

On Jan. 16, 2000, Lenz, Parker, Remington and three other inmates attended a meeting of the Ironwood Kindred. Lenz read poetry and afterward called Parker to a pagan altar set up for the gathering. He confronted Parker about their longstanding friction and pulled out a knife. Lenz and Remington stabbed Parker 68 times while a prison guard stood outside the room, court records show.

Lenz was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in February 2004.

Remington was also sentenced to death for Parker's killing. He committed suicide on death row in 2004.

Stephen McNallen, director of the Asatru Folk Assembly, a leading national Asatru group, estimates that the religion has 10,000 to 20,000 followers in the United States. He compared Asatru to Native American religions. But, according to some experts, Asatru has become increasingly popular among white supremacist prison groups.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in which Lenz's attorney argued that the jury in his trial was not impartial because jurors consulted a Bible during sentencing deliberations.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Richmond also dismissed an appeal that contended that the chemicals used in lethal injection cause "excruciating" pain. U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer rejected Lenz's claim that prison workers who administer the lethal drugs are not adequately trained.

Lenz spent time with his mother and two uncles several hours before the execution, said his attorney, Jennifer L. Givens. He did not make any special requests for his last meal.

Asked if he had any last words before the injection was administered, Lenz declined to say anything.

Including Lenz, Virginia has executed 333 inmates since 1908, according to the Department of Corrections. Last week, convicted killer Brandon W. Hedrick was electrocuted in the state's death chamber.

More than 1,000 inmates have been executed in the country since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


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