- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

RICHMOND | Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert has sent more than a dozen criminals to death row, but Tuesday could be the first time he watches one take his last breath.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court or Gov. Tim Kaine steps in, Mr. Ebert will witness the execution of Paul Warner Powell in Virginia’s death chamber, the nation’s second-busiest due, in part, to Mr. Ebert.

Powell would be the ninth inmate Mr. Ebert has sent to his death. Four others who he prosecuted, including Washington-area sniper John Muhammad, await execution.

“All of them are different, and all are horrific because the only people who get the death penalty are the worst of the worst, but he sort of put himself at the top of that list,” Mr. Ebert said of Powell, who chose to die by electrocution.

Powell, 31, was convicted in 2000 of stabbing to death 16-year-old Stacie Reed and of raping her 14-year-old sister, Kristie, stabbing and choking her and slitting her throat. Kristie survived and testified against Powell.

Powell was sentenced to die for Stacie’s murder, but the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the conviction, saying Mr. Ebert failed to prove Powell tried to rob or rape Stacie or commit other death-qualifying crimes.

Thinking he no longer faced the death penalty, Powell wrote a profanity-laced, taunting letter to Mr. Ebert graphically detailing Stacie’s murder.

The self-avowed racist said he was upset that Stacie had a black boyfriend, so he went to her home, tried to rape her and then stabbed her when she fought back, then stomped on her throat. Afterward, he had a cigarette and some iced tea while waiting for Kristie to return from school.

“Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid and for [messing] up and saving me?” he wrote Mr. Ebert.

Mr. Ebert threw out Powell’s earlier indictment and charged him with killing and attempting to rape Stacie, which made him eligible for the death penalty. Powell was convicted again in 2003 and sentenced to death.

Mr. Ebert, who has faced off against cop killers, serial murderers and even penis-slicing Lorena Bobbitt since taking office in 1967, said Powell’s was one of the worst cases he’s prosecuted. “I think a lot of people can relate to their children coming home from school, and it’s very horrible to have something like this happen,” he said.

That’s why he obliged when the family asked him to be with them for Powell’s execution.

Powell also directed his rage-filled writings to the Reed family. He wrote three mocking letters to the girls’ mother, Lorraine Whoberry, who now lives in Cincinnati.

Today she and Kristie, now 24 and preparing to enter the police academy in Texas, travel the country to speak to law enforcement officers about how they can be more sensitive to victims and their families.

Powell’s lawyers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the execution until it can decide whether his second capital murder charge violated the Fifth Amendment’s protection against being tried twice for the same offense.

State and federal courts have repeatedly rejected Powell’s double-jeopardy argument, saying the original charge was different because he was not accused of attempting to rape Stacie. A divided three-justice federal appeals court panel denied Powell’s claim in April.

If the Supreme Court rejects Powell’s request for a stay, his last hope would be Mr. Kaine. Powell’s lawyers have sent the governor a letter urging clemency.

If Powell is executed, he will be the 104th inmate put to death in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.

He would be the first inmate electrocuted in the U.S. since June 2008.

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