U.S. News

South Carolina executes man who strangled prison inmate

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - South Carolina executed by lethal injection on Friday a man convicted of murdering his cellmate in 2005 while serving two life sentences for earlier murders of two relatives.

Jeffrey Motts, 36, was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. local time at Broad River Correctional Institution in the state capital of Columbia, said John Barkley, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Motts was sentenced to death in 2007 for strangling inmate Charles Martin after a verbal altercation in their cell at Perry Correctional Institution in upstate Greenville County, South Carolina.

Motts pushed Martin’s body under the bed, ate breakfast, watched television and smoked cigarettes, and then dragged the body to a common room, kicked it and said “this is what snitches get,” according to court records.

Soon after his conviction, Motts began writing to the South Carolina Supreme Court asking to forgo all appeals and be put to death. In April, the state Supreme Court, having found him mentally competent to make the decision to die, granted his wish.

Motts had been convicted in 1997 of the robbery and murders of his great-aunt and another relative in South Carolina.

He was the first person to be executed in South Carolina in two years and the first to be put to death using a new drug, pentobarbital, in the three-drug execution protocol.

In several states, pentobarbital has replaced sodium thiopental, a drug that has become scarce in the United States, for lethal injection executions. Oklahoma and Ohio have switched to the new drug. On Tuesday, Texas put an inmate to death using pentobarbital.

Motts chose to have a spiritual advisor, who is a volunteer for Death Row inmates at the prison, with him in his final hours, Barkley said.

Between 3:30 and 4 on Friday afternoon, Motts was served his last meal of pizza, fried fish, popcorn shrimp, french fries, cherry cheesecake and sweet tea, he said.

In his last words, he apologized to the families of his three victims and his own family and warned children away from drugs.

“I was the child everyone wanted their children around until I got on drugs,” Motts said. “Drugs will destroy your life.”

Motts was the 14th person executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In 2010, 46 people were executed in the United States, six fewer than the previous year.

Reporting by Harriet McLeod. Editing by Greg McCune