- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2006

JARRATT, Va. — A man who murdered a fellow inmate during a pagan religious ceremony was executed last night after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeals and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied his request for clemency.

Michael Lenz, 42, received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center and was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m. for the murder of Brent Parker, 41.

When asked if he had any final words, Lenz gave a slight shake of his head, indicating no.

Lenz and another inmate, Jeffrey Remington, were sentenced to death in 2000 for stabbing Parker a combined 68 times at the foot of a makeshift altar in the Augusta Correctional Center.

Lenz had been serving a 29-year sentence after being convicted in Prince William County of burglary and weapon possession.

The three inmates were followers of the Nordic pagan religion Asatru and belonged to a group known as the Ironwood Kindred. The group was gathered for a ceremony when Lenz and Remington attacked Parker.

Lenz testified that Parker had not been taking the religion seriously, and to protect the honor of the gods, Parker had to be punished. Lenz also testified he felt threatened by Parker, who was serving a 50-year sentence for murder.

Lenz’s attorneys said Parker had threatened to kill Lenz and Remington. Lenz testified that Parker twice told him he would sharpen the point of a cane he carried and stab Lenz with it, attorney Matthew Engle said.

Remington committed suicide on death row in 2004.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, Lenz’s attorneys argued that jurors in Lenz’s case admitted they had consulted a Bible during their sentencing deliberations, and that one jury member said some jurors pointed to passages in the Bible that supported the death penalty for killers.

Those actions denied Lenz the right to a fair and impartial trial, Mr. Engle said.

Lenz’s attorneys also contend the verdict forms supplied to the jury failed to include all sentencing options.

In his monthly radio hour on Richmond’s WRVA yesterday, Mr. Kaine — a Democrat who personally opposes the death penalty because of his Roman Catholic faith — discussed the difficulty of dealing with clemency petitions.

“They’re not easy, and I would hope for every governor they wouldn’t be easy,” Mr. Kaine said. “And so what you do is when somebody has filed a clemency petition, you just do everything you can to really understand it.

“My team meets with the lawyers, we have extensive dialogue with the attorney general’s office and just try to make the best decision you can,” he said.

Since Mr. Kaine took office in January, two inmates have been executed.

Last month, Mr. Kaine delayed until December the execution of Percy Walton, whose mental state has been debated for nearly a decade.

Walton pleaded guilty in 1997 to killing three persons who had been robbed and shot in the head.

Lenz, dressed in a light blue shirt and dark blue pants, was brought into the execution chamber at 8:56 p.m., flanked by several guards. He did not look at witnesses seated in the viewing booth, and his expression remained blank as the execution team tightened a series of leather straps around him, securing him to the gurney.

The lethal drugs began to flow into his veins at 9:03 p.m., causing him to gasp sharply. He took several deep breaths before his body went still.

Lenz met with his mother and two uncles for two hours yesterday afternoon. He made no last meal request.

Parker’s mother, Bonnie Parker, said she is ambivalent about the execution, although her granddaughter Heather — Brent Parker’s daughter — thinks Lenz deserves to die. None of the family planned to witness the execution, Miss Parker said.

Miss Parker, 71, of Paw Paw, W.Va., said she misses her son, whom she described as a good person led astray by alcohol.

“It’s been so long since he’s been gone — it really hurts me even to talk about him,” she said. “He was very good to me.”

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