Execution of Paul Warner Powell set for Thursday

Paul Warner Powell, convicted of first degree murder in the January 1999 death of Stacie Reed, appears in court in 2003.
Paul Warner Powell, convicted of first degree murder in the January 1999 death of Stacie Reed, appears in court in 2003. (Amy Rossetti - Potomac News)
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 17, 2010; 5:00 PM

A Virginia man who killed a 16-year-old girl and then lurked at her Manassas home before raping and savagely attacking her 14-year-old sister in 1999 is scheduled to be executed Thursday at 9 p.m.

Paul Warner Powell, who admitted he stabbed Stacie Reed in the heart with a survival knife after an attempt to rape her, has chosen to die in the state's electric chair, according to state authorities. Though a rare decision since Virginia adopted lethal injections in 1995, Powell would be the second consecutive defendant to be executed in the 102-year-old oak armchair in the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Powell's case earlier this year after staying his first execution date last summer, and he has exhausted all of his appeals. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell declined to intervene after considering a clemency petition, the first time the governor -- a former state attorney general who is in favor of the death penalty -- has ruled on a death case.

Powell has been on death row for a decade, which is more than average in Virginia, in large part because his first death sentence was overturned. Although a jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to death, higher courts ruled that he could not be executed for killing one person and raping another because they were considered two separate crimes.

But Powell, bolstered by the court's decision and believing he was protected from a death sentence, then wrote a letter to Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert. In that letter, Powell boasted that he had bested the prosecutor and admitted additional facts about the crime, specifically that he killed Stacie after she refused to have sex with him.

Ebert, who aggressively prosecutes death penalty cases, re-indicted Powell for capital murder, tried him again and won a second conviction and death sentence, linking the attempted rape of Stacie to her murder.

Powell's defense attorneys do not dispute Powell's guilt but have argued that jurors in the second trial received an incorrect criminal history for Powell -- one that indicated he had been convicted of capital murder previously. That, they argue, led jurors to sentence him to death inappropriately. Their requests for a commutation to a life sentence have been unsuccessful.

Powell is also serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his attack on Kristie Reed.

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