RICHMOND, Va. – Like other Virginia inmates, a man convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman was allowed to choose how he would be executed: lethal injection or electric chair.
Apparently fearful of lethal injection, Brandon Hedrick on Thursday became the first person in the nation to die in the electric chair in more than two years. He was pronounced dead at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:12 p.m.
"I pray for everybody that believes in Jesus Christ in heaven and I pray for the people that are unsaved," the 27-year-old said in his final words. "I'm ready to go and be free."
Since 1995, when the state began allowing inmates to choose the method of execution, three other Virginia inmates have opted for the electric chair.
Hedrick may have chosen the electric chair because he feared lethal injection, his attorney Robert Lee said.
Last week, several guards showed up at Hedrick's cell late at night to present him with a form on which he was told to choose his execution method, Lee said. They talked about lethal injection, he said.
Lethal injection was adopted by many states in recent decades after it was portrayed as more humane than other methods of execution.
But defense attorneys in recent months have argued around the country that the combination of drugs can in some cases cause excruciating pain. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that death row inmates can challenge lethal injection as a civil rights issue.
Hedrick did not say the officers discussed reports of pain caused by the chemicals, Lee said. However, Hedrick was aware of those who raised concerns that inmates may be anesthetized but don't remain unconscious, Lee said.
The defense attorney said he did not believe Hedrick was manipulated into choosing the electric chair, but added: "Clearly, that stuff spooked him."
State Corrections Department spokesman Larry Traylor said he is confident the officers handled their task properly.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, nine states allow some or all condemned inmates to choose between injection and another method. Ten states have the electric chair; only one of them — Nebraska — uses it exclusively.
Hedrick was condemned to die for the 1997 murder of Lisa Crider, who was abducted, robbed, raped and killed with a shotgun blast to the face. Her body was found on Mother's Day, 1997. She left behind a 5-year-old son, Tracy, now 14.
"I think about her every day," said Crider's mother, Dale Alexander, 55. "At different times, day and night, because she's never far."
Also Thursday, a child sex offender in Texas, Robert Anderson, 40, was executed for abducting and killing 5-year-old Audra Reeves, becoming the 16th execution this year in Texas. He apologized to his victim's grandmother, who was among the witnesses.