U.S. News

Alabama executes man for 1988 murder

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - A man convicted of shooting a World War Two veteran to death during a 1988 robbery was executed by lethal injection on Thursday in Alabama.

The execution of Luther Jerome Williams, 47, for the slaying of John Robert Kirk, who participated in the 1944 Omaha Beach landing in France, was the state’s third of 2007 and the 38th since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Williams was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. CDT at Holman Correctional Facility in southern Alabama. He ate a hot dog, a green salad and orange juice as a last meal, said Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett.

Williams spoke through the glass partition in the execution chamber separating him from two members of the victim’s family, who came to witness his death, and proclaimed his innocence, Corbett said.

He was sentenced in 1989 for the murder of Kirk, who was shot in the back of the head. He had exhausted all his appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Thursday to deny a stay of execution.

Attorneys Christopher Little and Joel Sogol also wrote to Gov. Bob Riley on Monday asking for a stay until after a federal judge rules in October whether Alabama’s lethal injection method of execution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Williams’ attorneys and Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty said his mental status was never thoroughly evaluated, noting that Williams, who had been arrested 15 times before his murder conviction, lagged years behind his age group in school.

Riley issued a statement on Thursday rejecting their request.