Va. Inmate Executed For Killing Store Clerk

Robert Yarbrough was convicted in the 1997 killing of Cyril Hugh Hamby in Mecklenburg County.
Robert Yarbrough was convicted in the 1997 killing of Cyril Hugh Hamby in Mecklenburg County. (AP)
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By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Convicted killer Robert Stacy Yarbrough was put to death last night for nearly beheading a convenience store clerk in 1997. He was the 100th inmate executed in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Yarbrough, 30, died by lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. He was pronounced dead at 9:28 p.m. His last words were, "Tell my kids I love them, and let's get it over with," said Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections. Traylor said the execution was briefly delayed because it took more time than usual to get one of the intravenous lines into Yarbrough's arm.

Convicted killer Kevin Green was executed last month after an unusual hour-long delay, as his attorneys tried to win a reprieve.

This month, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) stopped the execution of triple murderer Percy L. Walton and commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole, saying that Walton is mentally incompetent.

Kaine declined yesterday to block Yarbrough's execution, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene, although Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would have granted a stay, the court said.

In a statement, Kaine said: "The trial, verdict, and sentence have been reviewed in detail by various state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of Virginia, a United States Magistrate, a United States District Court Judge, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Supreme Court of the United States also has denied Yarbrough's petition for review."

Kaine continued: "Having carefully reviewed the Petition for Clemency and judicial opinions regarding this case, I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended by the jury, and then imposed and affirmed by the courts. Accordingly, I decline to intervene."

The execution has added to the debate on capital punishment nationally and in Virginia. Only Texas, with 406 executions, has put more inmates to death since 1976.

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA's campaign to abolish the death penalty, said Yarbrough's execution "marks a grim milestone for the state of Virginia. As evidence mounts that this country's death penalty system is flawed beyond repair, Virginia has become a virtual racetrack for capital punishment."

After Yarbrough died, state Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) said: "Tonight, justice has been served. Our thoughts and prayers remain with [the victim's] children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all his friends and family."

Attorneys for Yarbrough declined to comment. They had said that the execution should have been stopped because Yarbrough's trial lawyers should have challenged the DNA evidence used to convict him and should have presented evidence that he was neglected as a child.

Yarbrough was convicted in the 1997 slaying of Cyril Hugh Hamby, 77, in Mecklenburg County. Yarbrough and a former high school classmate tied Hamby's hands behind his back with an extension cord, and Yarbrough cut Hamby's neck in a sawing motion at least 10 times as Hamby pleaded for him to stop.

Hamby bled to death, and the state medical examiner said his wounds were consistent with an attempted beheading.

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