- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

RICHMOND — Death row inmate Dexter Lee Vinson was executed last night, hours after Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied his petition for clemency.

Vinson received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt and was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m.

Vinson, 43, was convicted of the 1997 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Angela Felton, of Portsmouth. A 25-year-old mother of three, Mrs. Felton was abducted and brought to an abandoned house, where she was stabbed and sexually mutilated. She bled to death.

It was the first death penalty case Mr. Kaine, a Democrat and a devout Catholic, had considered since taking office in January. The death penalty became a major issue during the gubernatorial race last year when Republican Jerry W. Kilgore criticized Mr. Kaine’s opposition to capital punishment.

Mr. Kaine vowed that he would uphold Virginia’s capital punishment law, despite the teachings of his faith.

Mr. Kaine denied clemency last night, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the execution.

“Having carefully reviewed the Petition for Clemency and judicial opinions regarding this case, I find no compelling reasons to doubt Mr. Vinson’s guilt or to invalidate the sentence recommended by the jury and imposed, and affirmed, by the courts,” Mr. Kaine said in a statement. “Accordingly, I decline to intervene.”

Vinson became the 95th inmate Virginia has executed since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Only Texas has executed more, with 362.

Vinson denied he had anything to do with Mrs. Felton’s slaying, and his attorneys had argued that their client’s trial was riddled with holes.

Court records show that witnesses said they saw Vinson near the house where Mrs. Felton’s body was found. Court papers also show that investigators said Vinson’s palm print was found at the crime scene and that a drop of Mrs. Felton’s blood was found on a pair of shorts in Vinson’s home.

Earlier this week, Vinson’s attorneys scrambled to delay the execution by filing appeals.

One appeal argued that there were several shortcomings in Vinson’s trial. The other petition asked the Supreme Court to delay his execution until the court decides whether a Florida inmate could challenge that lethal injection violates his civil rights because it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Constitution.

The question centers on whether inmates feel excruciating pain when the final drug in the lethal mixture is administered.

Like Florida, Virginia administers three drugs. The first is an anesthetic that puts the inmate to sleep. The second is a chemical that causes paralysis, and the third is potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Dressed in a light blue, button-down shirt and denim pants, Vinson did not look through the glass at witnesses, including several of the victim’s family members, as he was brought into the death chamber at 8:58 p.m.

When asked whether he had any final words, Vinson shook his head sharply back and forth several times.

His expression remained blank as he was strapped to the gurney. The drugs began to flow at 9:08 p.m.; he was pronounced dead seven minutes later.

His last visitors were his sisters. He ate his final meal at 4:15 p.m., but corrections officials would not reveal what he ate, at Vinson’s request.

Mrs. Felton’s former mother-in-law, Wilhelmena Gatling, said yesterday that she hoped Vinson’s death would bring some comfort to Mrs. Felton’s children, now teenagers.

“I think it will bring closure to the children, but I don’t believe in the death penalty, so it’s not going to bring closure to me,” Mrs. Gatling said. “But as long as the children can go on, I can go on.

“She was a great mother and daughter-in-law,” Mrs. Gatling added. “I don’t care what you do, you can’t replace a mother.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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