US set for first execution since end of moratorium
Wednesday, 07 May 2008

REUTERS, Atlanta - Georgia is set to execute a convicted murderer on Tuesday, the first US inmate to be put to death since the Supreme Court ended a de facto moratorium on capital punishment last month.

William Earl Lynd is due to die by lethal injection at a prison in Jackson, central Georgia, at 7 p.m. (2300 GMT) for shooting his girlfriend Ginger Moore three times in the head and face in December 1988, authorities said.

Lynd buried his victim in a shallow grave near Tifton, south Georgia. Soon afterward, while driving to Ohio, he shot and killed another woman but he has not been convicted of that crime, according to the state attorney general's office.

Campaigners who oppose the death penalty say they plan demonstrations in five cities in Georgia at the time of the execution, as well as outside the prison. Lynd's lawyers have appealed to the state's Supreme Court for a stay of execution, arguing that experts who described the murder scene in court exaggerated what they saw.

The court was not expected to rule on the stay before Tuesday afternoon, according to court spokeswoman Jane Hansen. Had the experts described the scene accurately, Lynd would not have been charged with aggravated murder and kidnapping, crimes that warrant the death penalty in Georgia, according to Laura Moye of Amnesty International.

"This is the crazy world of death penalty cases. The timelines go pretty much down to the wire," said Moye, adding that a final appeal to the US Supreme Court might also be possible.

Lynd has requested a last meal of two pepper jack barbecue burgers with crispy onions, two baked potatoes with sour cream, bacon and cheese, and a large strawberry milkshake, prison authorities said.

DEATH KNELL

If Lynd's execution goes ahead, it will be the first since the US Supreme Court on April 16 rejected a challenge to the lethal three-drug cocktail used in most US executions, which opponents had claimed inflicted unnecessary pain.

A nationwide moratorium had been in effect since just after the court said on September 25 it would hear the appeal by two death row inmates in Kentucky.

That decision raised hopes among death penalty opponents that it could be the death knell for capital punishment in America.

One convicted murderer was executed in Texas a few hours after the court said it would hear the case but no execution has been carried out since then in the United States. Several states have been quick to schedule executions since the moratorium ended, including Virginia and Texas, which carries out more executions than any other state.

Alabama also says it will not delay in resuming executions. The next person executed in America will be the 1,100th put to death since the Supreme Court lifted a temporary ban on the practice in 1976. Since that time, Texas has led the way with 405 executions, followed by Virginia with 98.

Last year, 42 people were executed in America, the lowest number since 1994 when 31 were put to death. But the number would almost certainly have been higher last year if it had not been for the Supreme Court case.

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