- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A federal judge sentenced a Hillcrest Heights man to death yesterday for kidnapping a 19-year-old man from a D.C. street corner, shooting him and dumping his body on a street in Temple Hills in 2002.

The death sentence for Kenneth Lighty, 23, which was recommended by a jury in November, marks a rare use of capital punishment in the U.S. District Court of Maryland in Greenbelt. The state has only one other inmate on federal death row.

Lighty was convicted of the murder and kidnapping of Eric L. Hayes II, the son of a D.C. police officer, along with two other men on Jan. 23, 2002. Prosecutors said Mr. Hayes had been pistol-whipped and shot several times in the head.

In a brief statement shortly before he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte, Lighty denied that he was guilty and said he would continue to challenge his conviction and sentence.

“I just want to make it clear I am innocent of these charges,” Lighty said, as members of his family and Mr. Hayes’ relatives listened in the courtroom. “Until the day they inject those chemicals in my veins, I’m going to be fighting to make it off.”

But Judge Messitte noted the jury concluded that Lighty was principally responsible for Hayes’ death.

Mr. Hayes “is gone from this world because of some crazy, simple, angry act that involved you and your friends,” Judge Messitte said.

Along with the death sentence, Judge Messitte gave Lighty a life sentence plus five years for conspiracy and gun charges. Lighty also must pay more than $7,000 in restitution to the Hayes family.

Lighty’s attorney, Jeffrey O’Toole, said he planned to appeal.

“We expect this case to come back for retrial, certainly for resentencing,” Mr. O’Toole said.

The other men in the case, James Flood, 28, and Lorenzo Wilson, 23, were both sentenced to life in prison for their roles. Wilson was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap, and Flood was found guilty of kidnapping and murder in a joint trial with Lighty.

The state’s only other federal death row inmate, Dustin Higgs of Laurel, was sentenced to die in 2001 for killing three women in 1996.

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