- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2004

RICHMOND — Dennis M. Orbe was expected to be put to death last night for robbing and murdering a York County convenience-store clerk in 1998.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal based on Orbe’s argument that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, but Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg supported giving Orbe a stay. Orbe contends that he could suffer great pain if a sedative failed to work and he woke up while a drug to stop his heart was being administered.

Orbe’s attorneys also asked Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, to delay the execution until the state adopted a more humane form of carrying out the sentence. However, another appeal was filed with the courts last evening, and the governor’s spokeswoman said Mr. Warner would not act until that was resolved.

Orbe had said his chances of winning a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court were virtually nil.



“Not a chance,” he said Monday in a phone interview from the building housing the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, where his execution was set for 9 p.m.

Orbe’s execution would be the second in Virginia in as many weeks and the 91st since the state resumed executions in 1982 after a 20-year hiatus.

Orbe’s crime was captured on the convenience store’s surveillance tape, which showed that Rick Burnett put up no resistance as Orbe shot him in the chest with a .357-caliber revolver.

On the run during a 10-day crime spree, Orbe said he tried to get gas at the store about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 24, 1998, but the pump required prepayment.

He went into the store and brandished the gun at Mr. Burnett.

“He saw the gun. I said, ‘Give me the … money.’ I actually cocked the hammer. I told him again, ‘Give me the … money,’” he said in the interview from Greensville.

“He hesitates. I figured he might be trying to figure out a way to stop me. I reached out to actually point it directly at him. I was shaking. I was as scared as he was, but when I extended the gun it went off. It happened so quickly I was dumbfounded. I seen the hole in his sweater. I panicked. I got the money and got out of there.”

The slaying was part of a crime rampage that included abductions, assaults, robberies and break-ins in Richmond, and Chesterfield and New Kent counties.

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