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North Carolina Man is 1000th Executed Since 1976 Decision

Friday, December 02, 2005

  • By: Brenda Goodman
  • Organization: Associated Press

Just after 2 a.m., a North Carolina man became the 1,000th person to be executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court upheld states' rights to order the death penalty in 1976. The somber moment drew a sizeable crowd to Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., to protest capital punishment.

Kenneth Lee Boyd, 57, of Rockingham, N.C., died by lethal injection for the 1988 shootings of his estranged wife, Julie Curry Boyd, who was 36, and her father, Thomas Dillard Curry, 57. Members of both families had asked to be present.

Mr. Boyd's son, Kenneth Smith, 35, who visited his dad every day for the last two weeks, said in an interview on Thursday that he felt the attention paid to the milestone had hurt his father's chances for clemency.

Mr. Smith also said his dad was deeply troubled that he might only be remembered as a grim hash mark in the history books.

"He didn't want to be 999, and he didn't want to be 1001 if you know what I mean," said Mr. Smith. "He wanted to live."

Mr. Boyd's attorney, Thomas Maher, had hoped to win a stay for his client, who he said had an I.Q. of 77. The cutoff for mental retardation, a mitigating factor in some capital cases, is 75. He also hoped the U.S. Supreme Court and North Carolina Governor Mike Easley would consider that before these murders, Mr. Boyd had no history of violent crime, and that he had volunteered to go to war in Vietnam.

Belinda J. Foster, District Attorney for Rockingham, N.C., who prosecuted Mr. Boyd, said she felt confident that the death penalty was warranted in this case.

In March of 1988, Mr. Boyd shot his father-in-law twice with a .35 Magnum before turning the gun on his estranged wife. He shot her eight times. Christopher Boyd, their son, was pinned underneath his mother's body. Paramedics later found the boy hiding under a bed, covered in her blood, Ms. Foster said.

"There are cases that are so horrendous and the evidence so strong it just warrants a death sentence," Ms. Foster said.

Michael Paranzino, President of the pro-death penalty group Throw Away the Key, agreed.

"You'll never stop crimes of passion, but I do believe the death penalty is a general deterrent, and it expresses society's outrage," Mr.

Paranzino said.

An October 2005 Gallup poll found that 64 percent of all Americans support capital punishment in murder cases.

Mr. Boyd never denied his guilt, but said he couldn't remember killing anyone and didn't know why he did it.

"We believe this occasion is the perfect time to reconsider the whole issue of execution," said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International, a group that has sought to end the practice of using executions as a punishment for crime around the world.

"Since 1976, about one in eight prisoners on death row in the U.S. has been exonerated. That should raise serious questions about ending a person's life," Mr. Schulz said.

Others argue that the death penalty should be reconsidered because it is so arbitrarily applied.

The vast majority of those sentenced to death for their crimes are impoverished and live in the South, said Stephen B. Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights and a long time advocate for death row inmates.

"Texas has put 355 people to death in the last 30 years, with just one county in Texas, Harris County, accounting for more executions than the entire states of Georgia or Alabama. Where is the justice in that?"

asked Mr. Bright.

As to the provision of justice, Marie Curry, who lost her husband and her daughter when Mr. Boyd shot them 17 years ago, said she was at a loss to provide any answers.

"I really don't know, " she said.

Mrs. Curry raised Mr. Boyd's three sons, Christopher, Jamie, and Daniel, after their father was sent to prison for their mother's murder.

"It's just a sad day. The bible says to forgive anyone that asks you, and I did," she said, "But I can't ever forget."

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