Published July 21, 2011
JACKSON, Ga. – A Georgia man convicted of killing his parents and sister was executed Thursday after the courts allowed what experts say is the nation's first video-recorded execution in almost two decades.
Andrew DeYoung, 37, received a lethal injection Thursday night at the state prison in Jackson after courts turned down his appeals.
A videographer with a camera on a tripod stood about 5 feet away from the gurney inside the execution chamber.
When asked to make a final statement, DeYoung said he was "sorry to everyone I hurt."
"I love you Dawn. Remember to smile," DeYoung said. His lawyer said Dawn was an old friend.
He declined the offer of a final prayer. Department of Corrections officials said he took a sedative pill offered to him beforehand.
When the three-drug injection began, DeYoung blinked his eyes and swallowed for about two minutes, then his eyes closed and he became still. He was pronounced dead at 8:04 p.m.
The execution was set for Wednesday but was pushed back a day as the state tried to block the video recording.
Lawyers for death row inmate Gregory Walker argued that recording DeYoung's execution would provide critical evidence in his appeal about the effects of pentobarbital, which is the sedative now being used as the first step in Georgia's injection procedure.
Walker's attorneys want to show that pentobarbital does not adequately sedate the inmate and could cause pain and suffering.
In court filings, state prosecutors argued that having a videographer in the execution chamber would jeopardize the state's carefully scripted security. They also said creating a video came with the risk of it being distributed.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane allowed the recording to take place, and that decision was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday. The video will be kept under seal by the court.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said it was up to the courts to decide the matter, though he told reporters following a news conference Thursday he had "grave reservations" about videotaping executions.
Defense lawyers countered in a motion filed Thursday that the state corrections department has long allowed cameras to film parts of the prison, although they acknowledged the state has never before allowed an execution to be recorded.
"It is simply disingenuous to assert that video recording of Mr. DeYoung's execution constitutes a fundamental threat to the security of the institution," attorneys wrote in the filing.
The use of pentobarbital became an issue in Georgia after Roy Blankenship's June 23 execution.
Blankenship was the first Georgia prisoner put to death using the sedative pentobarbital as the lead-off drug in the state's lethal three-drug combination.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed Blankenship jerking his head several times during the procedure, looking at the injection sites in his arms and muttering after the pentobarbital was injected into his veins.
Death penalty critics said Blankenship's unusual movements were proof that Georgia shouldn't have used pentobarbital to sedate him before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyze him and then potassium chloride to stop his heart.
In seeking a stay, DeYoung's attorneys argued that using pentobarbital could cause DeYoung to suffer. But those arguments were rejected by the courts.
State prosecutors have raised questions about the timeline cited in the AP's account and argued Blankenship's movements occurred before the sedative took hold.
The state attorney general's office has said adequate safeguards are in place to prevent needless suffering, including a consciousness check before the second and third drugs are administered. The consciousness check was used for the first time in Blankenship's execution.
It was performed again on DeYoung Thursday night. A nurse in the chamber throughout the procedure touched his eyes and his arm. DeYoung showed no signs of movement and the execution continued.
States have been turning to pentobarbital to carry out executions since the manufacturer of another sedative announced it would not resume production in the U.S. Pentobarbital has been used this year to put at least 18 inmates to death in eight states.
DeYoung was convicted of killing his mother, father and 14-year-old sister, Sarah, when DeYoung was a student at Kennesaw State University. Prosecutors say he wanted to use his inheritance to start a business.
Authorities said DeYoung cut the telephone wires of his family's home in the middle of the night. He then stabbed his mother repeatedly while she was sleeping upstairs, and then stabbed his father and sister, prosecutors said. A brother sleeping downstairs escaped after hearing the commotion and ran to a neighbor's house for help.
DeYoung had his requested last meal before his planned execution on Wednesday. He asked for pizza, grape juice, vanilla ice cream and all-fruit strawberry preserves.
On Thursday night he was provided with prison fare: chicken and rice, dried peas, seasoned turnip greens, cornbread, a brownie and tea.
He was visited Thursday by an aunt, two friends, his legal counsel and a member of the clergy. They departed the prison by 3 p.m.
His brother was not among the witnesses who attended his execution on Thursday.