- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia moved forward with preparations to execute a convicted killer, who tonight could become the first inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a three-drug lethal injection procedure.

Barring a last-minute reprieve from the courts, William Earl Lynd will be put to death at 7 p.m., making him the first prisoner executed since September, when the high court took up a challenge to lethal injection and effectively halted all executions nationwide for seven months.

The Supreme Court ruled last month in a Kentucky case that the state’s method of executing inmates with a three-drug cocktail did not violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Roughly three dozen states, including Georgia, use a similar method.

Prosecutors in several of those states quickly moved to schedule executions that had been delayed by the court’s review. Besides Georgia, Mississippi yesterday scheduled an execution for later this month, while Texas announced plans to put a Mexican-born prisoner to death in August.

Lynd has an appeal pending before the Georgia Supreme Court asking for a stay to consider new forensic medical evidence. His lawyer, Tom Dunn, said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the Georgia justices rule against him.

Lynd has already selected his final meal: two pepper jack barbecue burgers with crisp onions; two baked potatoes with sour cream, bacon and cheese; and a strawberry milkshake.

Death penalty opponents planned vigils around Georgia today.

“In light of the many well-documented problems with our death penalty system, it is disturbing that Georgia is rushing to lead the country in resuming the death penalty machinery,” said Laura Moye, chairwoman of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Lynd, now 53, was sentenced to die for kidnapping and shooting his live-in girlfriend, Ginger Moore, 26, in south Georgia in 1988, after the two consumed Valium, marijuana and alcohol. Prosecutors said she suffered a slow, agonizing death, regaining consciousness twice after being shot in the head.

The five-member Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles yesterday rejected Lynd’s clemency appeal without comment.

Texas conducted the nation’s last execution, putting Michael Richard to death on Sept. 25, 2007, the same day the Supreme Court agreed to consider the Kentucky case, brought by two prisoners who claimed the lethal injection method violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Yesterday, a Texas judge set an Aug. 5 lethal injection date for Jose Medellin, 33, for his participation in the gang rape and strangulation deaths of two teenage girls when they stumbled upon a gang initiation rite 15 years ago in Houston.

The death sentence for the Mexican-born Medellin set off an international dispute and a U.S. Supreme Court rebuke of the White House after the high court in March refused to hear his appeal, saying President Bush overstepped his authority by ordering Texas to reopen his case and the cases of 50 other Mexican nationals condemned for murders in the U.S.

In Mississippi, the state Supreme Court scheduled a May 21 execution for Earl Wesley Berry, convicted of kidnapping Mary Bounds from the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Houston on Nov. 29, 1987. He beat her viciously then dumped her body in the woods.

Attorney General Jim Hood had requested that Berry be executed yesterday, his 49th birthday. However, the court set the date for later this month after rejecting arguments from Berry’s lawyers that he should be spared because he is mentally disabled and that the method of lethal injection is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court had blocked Berry’s last scheduled execution on Oct. 30, 2007, to consider the Kentucky case.

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