Execution Is First Since Ruling

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Georgia executed killer William Earl Lynd last night, ending a more than seven-month nationwide hiatus on capital punishment prompted by the Supreme Court's examination of lethal injection.

Lynd's execution at 7:51 p.m. was the first since the court ruled April 16 that the three-drug protocol most commonly used in executions by states and the federal government did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The court last night turned down Lynd's last-minute request for a stay, as the Georgia Supreme Court had earlier in the day. He was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

"It was not something we wanted to necessarily be first at. It was just the fact that this had been there," Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) said at an earlier news conference, according to the Associated Press.

Other states are being aggressive. Texas has scheduled six executions before the end of summer, and Virginia has set dates for three. Additionally, the commonwealth has asked the Supreme Court to dissolve a stay it granted for Virginia death row inmate Christopher Scott Emmett so it can schedule his execution.

"The commonwealth has suffered, and continues to suffer, serious and irreparable harm each day the stay remains in effect," said a brief filed by Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R).

There has been a de facto moratorium on executions since the court decided last September to consider lethal injection. The court's ruling last month in Baze v. Rees upheld lethal injection procedures used by Kentucky, but the plurality opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said states with similar protocols also likely met constitutional standards.

"Justice Roberts' opinion made it clear that one of his ambitions was to make it extremely difficult to obtain stays" for inmates challenging similar systems, said Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley law school.

Lynd's attorneys had asked the courts and the Georgia pardon board to reexamine his case for other reasons. Lynd shot his live-in girlfriend, Ginger Moore, in 1988 while the two were high on Valium, marijuana and alcohol. Lynd shot Moore in the face, then shot her again when she crawled from the house to the porch.

He loaded her body into the trunk of her car and then, after hearing a noise from the trunk, shot her a third time. After burying her, he drove to Ohio, where he shot and killed another woman.

A medical examiner had testified that Moore was alive when Lynd put her in the trunk, and the resulting aggravated kidnapping charge was one factor the jury weighed in deciding that his crime deserved the death penalty. Lynd's attorneys presented testimony that Moore could not have been alive after he shot her the second time, and thus the kidnapping charge should not have been among the aggravating circumstances used to justify the death sentence.

Lynd found no supporters at either of the courts that considered his last-minute request yesterday. Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote in the Baze decision that he no longer supports the death penalty, did not file a statement separate from the court's two-sentence denial.

The country's last previous execution took place in Texas on Sept. 25, the day the court announced it was accepting the Baze case. There were 42 executions in 2007, the lowest number in 13 years.

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