Va. Executes Man, Ending De Facto Moratorium
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Convicted killer Kevin Green was put to death by lethal injection last night, becoming the first inmate executed in Virginia's normally busy death chamber since 2006.
Green, who killed a southeastern Virginia convenience store owner in 1998, was strapped to a gurney, administered a succession of three drugs and pronounced dead at 10:05 p.m., said Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections. The execution came after an unusual hour-long delay as Green's attorneys tried to persuade a federal judge in Richmond to issue a last-minute reprieve, even though the U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) had declined to intervene.
U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer refused, clearing the way for Green to die at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.
The execution signaled the resumption of capital punishment in the state after it was effectively put on hold in the fall because the Supreme Court was debating the constitutionality of lethal injection. Kaine also twice delayed the execution of another inmate in 2006.
Virginia has executed 99 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, second only to Texas, which has executed 405. The last inmate executed in Virginia was John Yancey Schmitt, who died by injection in November 2006.
"Tonight justice has been served," Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) said after Green's death.
But Timothy M. Richardson, an attorney for Green, said that even though Green's victim "suffered a horrible loss as a result of Mr. Green's crime . . . we just executed a man with the IQ of an 11-year-old child."
Green's attorneys had argued to Kaine that their client could not be constitutionally put to death because, with an IQ of 65, he is mentally retarded. The Supreme Court outlawed the execution of mentally disabled people in 2002 but left it up to states to define mental retardation.
Kaine denied the clemency petition, saying he had carefully reviewed the case but found "no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended by the jury." And the Supreme Court rejected a stay of execution, though Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said they would have granted the stay.
Although the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection last month, a federal appeals court in Richmond is weighing a challenge to the three-drug method of lethal injection. Attorneys for convicted killer Christopher S. Emmett are arguing that Virginia's protocol is unconstitutional, saying that prisoners are not fully anesthetized before being administered drugs that can cause excruciating pain.
State attorneys say Virginia's lethal injection protocol is "virtually identical" to the procedures in Kentucky that the Supreme Court upheld.
Green was convicted in the killing of Patricia L. Vaughan, who owned a small grocery store with her husband in Brunswick County. A jury convicted Green and sentenced him to death in 2000. The Virginia Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 2001. Green was again convicted and sentenced to death later that year.
Green requested a last meal yesterday but did not want it disclosed, officials said. He did not offer any last words.
Three executions are scheduled in Virginia over the next two months, including that of Percy L. Walton, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to killing an elderly Danville couple and his neighbor. Kaine twice delayed Walton's execution in 2006 so his condition and competence could be evaluated.
Staff writer Robert Barnes contributed to this report.