- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

JARRATT, Va. — A man was executed last night for murdering a security guard during a bank holdup.

John Yancey Schmitt, 33, received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 9:14 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center.

After the needles had been inserted into his veins, Schmitt lifted his head and stared through the glass at witnesses in the viewing booth.

“Come on with it,” he said simply in his final words.

The lethal drugs began to flow at 9:01 p.m., and Schmitt again tried to lift his head to look at witnesses, his eyes opened wide as he gasped loudly for air. Moments later, he was still.

Schmitt was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2000 for the slaying of Earl Shelton Dunning, 39, an Army retiree who was killed just one month before he was to be married.

On Feb. 17, 1999, Schmitt entered a Chesterfield County bank wearing sunglasses and a bulky jacket, attracting the attention of Mr. Dunning, who followed him inside. After shooting Mr. Dunning, Schmitt fled with nearly $36,000 in cash. He and an accomplice had robbed the same bank a month earlier.

In 2000, a jury convicted Schmitt of capital murder, robbery and firearms charges, and recommended a death sentence, declaring him a danger to society.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Schmitt’s attorneys for a stay, as did Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

In their petition to the high court, Schmitt’s attorneys accused prosecutor Warren Von Schuch of withholding information about a key witness, which they said could have influenced the jury’s decision to recommend a death sentence. In their clemency petition to Mr. Kaine, they also argue that Mr. Dunning was killed when Schmitt’s gun accidentally discharged during a struggle.

Mr. Von Schuch, Chesterfield County deputy commonwealth’s attorney, denied any prosecutorial misconduct and called the killing premeditated and cold-blooded.

In July, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond criticized Mr. Von Schuch for withholding the information but ultimately ruled the prosecutor’s actions probably would not have changed the jury’s decision.

In their clemency petition to Mr. Kaine, Schmitt’s attorneys also argued that forensic evidence shows that Schmitt and Mr. Dunning struggled and that Schmitt’s gun fired accidentally. The bank’s security cameras did not record any images of a confrontation or the shooting.

Schmitt met with a spiritual adviser, his attorneys and family members yesterday, said Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor. For his last meal, Schmitt requested pizza, a cheese omelet with sausage, green pepper and onions, and white cake with white icing.

Mr. Von Schuch said Mr. Dunning bravely sacrificed his own life by placing himself between Schmitt and the bank tellers.

“He was a tremendous human being,” Mr. Von Schuch said. “This man really was a hero.”

Schmitt was the 98th inmate executed in Virginia since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, and the fourth this year. Virginia’s execution rate is second only to Texas, which has executed 24 inmates so far this year.

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