Joseph Carl Shaw, apologizing to the families of his victims and saying he believed that God had forgiven him, was put to death in the electric chair yesterday in South Carolina's first execution in nearly 23 years.

"I want to say I'm sorry to all three families -- the Swanks, Taylors and the Hartnesses," said Shaw, 29, after being strapped in the 73-year-old oaken chair. "I hope they will have some peace when all the publicity about me ends."

He thanked his lawyers and urged those fighting the death penalty to keep on fighting. "Killing was wrong when I did it, and it is wrong when you do it," Shaw said.

His attorney, Stephen Bright of Atlanta, then kissed Shaw on the cheek and stepped back out of the execution chamber.

Shaw was pronounced dead at 5:16 a.m. EST from two 60-second jolts of 2,300 volts of electricity. The current was turned on at 5:08 a.m.

Witnesses said Shaw clenched his fist when the current was turned on and made a slight rocking motion. There were whiffs of smoke from the electrodes on his ankles.

Shaw, who said he was a victim of drug abuse, was convicted along with James Terry Roach and Ronald Mahaffey of killing Thomas Taylor, 17, and then raping and killing Taylor's girlfriend, Carlotta Hartness, 14, in 1977. Roach is on death row. Mahaffey is serving life in prison.

Shaw also confessed to the murder of Betty Swank, 21, who was shot 12 days before the Taylor-Hartness killings. All three victims were from Columbia.