ATLANTA – A Georgia man who killed his live-in girlfriend was executed Tuesday, the first inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injections.
William Earl Lynd was pronounced dead at 7:51 p.m. EDT, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Mallie McCord told The Associated Press. It came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected efforts to block it.
The roughly three dozen states around the country that use lethal injection held off on carrying out any executions for more than seven months while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of the three-drug cocktail that's used. It was the longest pause in U.S. executions in a quarter century.
The Supreme Court last month upheld the legality of lethal injections.
Lynd, 53, was sentenced to die for kidnapping and shooting his live-in girlfriend, Ginger Moore, three times in the face and head two decades ago. After he buried Moore's body in a shallow grave near a south Georgia farm, authorities said Lynd fled to Ohio, where he shot and killed another woman who had stopped along the side of the road to help him.
Lynd never denied killing Moore, 26, two days before Christmas in 1988. But his lawyers had sought a last minute reprieve from the courts, arguing that new forensic evidence showed he could not have kidnapped her because she was already dead when he stuffed her in the trunk of her car.
Prosecutors allege that Moore was still alive when Lynd placed her in the trunk — despite two gunshot wounds to the head. They say Lynd confessed to authorities that he fired the final, lethal shot when he heard her "thumping around" in the trunk.
The kidnapping had been an essential "aggravating" circumstance that made Lynd eligible for the death penalty.
Lawyers say Lynd and Moore had a volatile relationship and were in a heated argument over a trip to Florida when he shot her. His attorney, Tom Dunn, argued that the shooting was not premeditated, and took place after the two had taken Valium, marijuana and alcohol. In the days leading up to Lynd's execution, Dunn asked several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to block it but was turned down each time.
Lynd's execution came about 30 minutes after its 7 p.m. EDT scheduled time as officials waited to hear whether the U.S. Supreme Court would step in and halt it, and as they awaited the final go-ahead from the state attorney general.
The procedure began at 7:34 p.m. EDT with Lynd's heavily tattooed arms and neck strapped down to a gurney. He did not have any last remarks and declined a final prayer. As the chemicals began to flow into his arms, he blinked repeatedly, shuddered and yawned several moments into the procedure. He was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.
About three dozen people watched Lynd's execution, including the brother and sister-in-law of Lynd's girlfriend.
Death penalty opponents staged vigils around the state Tuesday night to protest the first of an expected wave of executions around the country. At the state Capitol in Atlanta, more than 40 people protested and unfurled a red, white and blue banner that said "Stop the Death Penalty."
About a dozen protesters were outside the state prison.
"I just feel a profound sense of sadness that our state has rushed to be the first in the country to resume executing people," said Laura Moye, of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Jeanne Zittrauer was among eight people who stood outside the city hall in Savannah, about 250 miles east of Atlanta, to protest Lynd's execution.
"It makes me ashamed that Georgia is the first one to do this, that we would jump right in there," the 65-year-old Zittrauer said. "I'm not saying he's guilty or innocent, but I don't believe any man deserves to be put to death."
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 a Kentucky case brought by two prisoners who claimed the lethal injection method violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.