The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

North Carolina executes fifth inmate this year

At the beginning of 2005, 12 men were scheduled to be executed in North Carolina – only five sentences were carried out. Some inmates were not executed because the courts determined that they needed to be resentenced. Other inmates narrowly escaped the death penalty because of their IQ or because they were juveniles at the time of the offence. Kenneth Boyd was scheduled for execution at 2 a.m. this morning. He was the fifth inmate to die by lethal injection this year in N.C. He was convicted for the murders of his estranged wife Julie Boyd and her father, Thomas Dillard Curry, in 1988.

Boyd had an IQ of 77, which is on the borderline of retardation. The 2002 Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia found the death penalty for the mentally retarded unconstitutional. In July 2004, Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan commuted the death sentence of Darnell Williams, whose IQ was borderline mentally retarded.

Boyd’s lawyers asked Gov. Mike Easley for clemency on Boyd’s behalf, arguing that jurors didn’t know they could impose a life sentence.

Urging Gov. Mike Easly to deny clemency, District Attorney Belinda Foster said, “Death is a just punishment for Kenneth Lee Boyd.”

“I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent, and I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point,” said Janet Reno, former Attorney General. Reno’s statement reflects the results of studies that compare homicide trends in states and countries that practice capital punishment with those that do not.

“[The death penalty] is not a deterrent, we know that very clearly. It’s never been a deterrent. It’s not going to be a deterrent,” said Jerry Joplin, Associate Professor of Justice and Policy Studies. “To support it as a deterrent is unreasonable.”

According to the American Bar Association, the majority of Americans and a growing number of national organizations oppose the death penalty for those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

“Young persons, because of their immaturity, may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and should therefore benefit from less severe sanctions than adults,” said Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “More importantly, it reflects the firm belief that young persons are more susceptible to change, and thus have a greater potential for rehabilitation than adults.”

In March 2005, the Supreme Court found the death sentence unconstitutional for juvenile offenders (Roper v. Simmons). At that time there were 79 juvenile offenders on death row in the country – three of them in North Carolina.

Lamorris Chapman was 17 when he was convicted of the drive-by shooting of 16 year-old Seleana Nesbitt. Chapman’s sentence was reduced to life without the chance of parole after the Supreme Court ruling. Travis Walters and Thomas Adams also received reduced sentences weeks before their scheduled executions for their killings as juveniles.

“When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity,” said Justice Kennedy.

Four other death row inmates were executed this year in North Carolina. William Powell was executed on Mar. 11 for the 1991 killing of a convenience store clerk. Powell was believed to have killed the clerk for money to feed a cocaine habit. Though the judge found no evidence of premeditation, the jury sentenced Powell to death.

Earl Richmond, a former army drill sergeant, was executed for the 1991 killing of Helisa Stewart Hayes and her two children.

“I don’t believe in the death penalty under any circumstances, but I was born to die and now I die to live,” said Richmond.

Richmond asked Gov. Mike Easley not to consider him for clemency. He also declined to have his Last Meal. “My victims got no last meal,” said Richmond.

A statement released by District Attorney Ed Grannis read, “We trust that Earl Richmond, Jr.’s execution has provided some measure of justice for his victims and for the citizens of the state of North Carolina.”

Steven McHone was executed on Nov. 11 for the shootings of Mildred Adams and Wesley Adams, Sr., his mother and stepfather. McHone was 20 years old in 1990 when he shot his parents after a dispute over money. McHone made a chilling statement to police when he was apprehended:

“I know what I’ve done, and I’ll have to pay for it. Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with.”

McHone gave no final statement, but appeared to be mouthing the words, “I am sorry” to his half brother, Wesley Adams, Jr.

Adams supported the execution of his brother and drove from Ohio to witness it.

“We have sympathy and pray for comfort for those who will grieve Steve’s passing,” Adams said in a statement. “We do, however, feel that justice was upheld and that this fate was sealed many years ago.”

“Given the facts and circumstances of this case, I find no compelling reasons to invalidate the sentences recommended by the jury and affirmed by the courts,” Governor Easley said.

Elias Syriani was executed on Nov. 18. He is the second oldest man to be executed in the country since 1976. He was convicted of stabbing his wife, Teresa Yousef Syriani, to death with a screwdriver. His wife stopped dressing according to Arabic tradition and this was a constant source tension between Syriani and Teresa.

Syriani’s son who witnessed the murder wrote this is an essay at school after his mother’s death, “My mom is the most prettiest [sic] woman in the world. I hate my stupid [sic] dad he killed her … I was in the car with her.”

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