U.S. News

Virginia executes 100th inmate since 1976 ruling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia put a convicted murderer to death by lethal injection on Wednesday, the 100th person executed by the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Robert Stacy Yarbrough, 30, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1997 killing of a store owner during a robbery, was put to death shortly before 9:30 p.m. EDT at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.

With 100 executions since the 1976 ruling, Virginia ranks second in the nation behind Texas, which has 406, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group opposed to capital punishment. Oklahoma is third, with 86 executions.

The Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, but then reinstated capital punishment laws four years later.

Yarbrough’s execution occurred after Gov. Timothy Kaine, a Democrat, refused to grant him clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his request for a stay of execution and turned down his appeal.

“Tell my kids I love them and let’s get it over with. Make people happy, help celebrate the murder,” Yarbrough said in a final statement issued by Virginia Corrections Department spokesman Larry Traylor.

Of the Supreme Court’s nine members, only justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said they would grant the stay of execution.

Yarbrough’s appeal argued that his lawyer should have challenged DNA evidence used to convict him, that the prosecutor unfairly removed black potential jurors and that his lawyer provided ineffective assistance by failing to present evidence that might have resulted in a lesser sentence.

Yarbrough was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Cyril Hamby, a 77-year-old Mecklenburg County store owner. Yarbrough nearly decapitated his victim, cutting Hamby’s neck with a pocket knife during the May 8, 1997 robbery with his friend.

Yarbrough became the second Virginia death row inmate and the ninth person executed since the Supreme Court on April 16 upheld the commonly used lethal injection method, ending an unofficial moratorium in effect since late September.

Other states to have carried out executions since the ruling include Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Reporting by James Vicini and JoAnne Allen, Editing by Anthony Boadle