- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RICHMOND — A Virginia prisoner who strangled two inmates in the state’s highest security prisons and vowed to keep killing unless he was put to death is scheduled to be executed in January.

Wise County Circuit Judge John Kilgore on Tuesday set a Jan. 16 execution for Robert Gleason Jr., 42, after Gleason waived all state and federal appeals.

“I did the crime and this is the punishment. It is what it is,” Gleason told The Associated Press in June. “I ain’t going to go kill a bunch of people and say, ‘Oh, don’t do that to me.’”

Gleason told AP he would choose to die by electrocution instead of lethal injection. Condemned inmates in Virginia get to choose between the two methods, but electrocution is rarely chosen. His attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment.


Gleason was serving a life term for murder at Wallens Ridge State Prison in May 2009 when he killed his cellmate, Harvey Watson Jr. After being transferred to the supermax Red Onion State Prison, Gleason strangled inmate Aaron Cooper in an outdoor recreation cage in July 2010.

The killings inside highly secure facilities exposed problems in the prison system and spawned a federal lawsuit.

At Wallens Ridge, a high-security prison in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, Gleason used shreds of bed sheets to tie Watson’s hands and arms to his body and fashioned a gag out of two socks. He later gave Watson a cigarette before beating and strangling the 63-year-old man, who was serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding two others.

Watson’s death went unnoticed for 15 hours because correctional officers had not followed proper procedure for inmate head counts. Department officials said two officers were disciplined, and two others were fired. One of those was reinstated upon appeal.

After Watson’s murder, Gleason was transferred to Red Onion, the state’s only supermax prison, where inmates are held in isolation 23 hours each day.

Gleason claimed in court that a correctional officer at Red Onion put metal in his food and that he told a close friend he would kill an officer in retaliation. He says the friend made him promise not to do that and that the only way for him to keep that promise is to be executed.

“I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I’m gonna do it again,” Gleason said at the time. “Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is put me on death row.”