RALEIGH, N.C. - A man who killed his wife and father-in-law awaited lethal injection early Friday in the nation's 1,000th execution since capital punishment resumed in 1977. Kenneth Lee Boyd, set to die at 2 a.m., spent the day visiting family and friends.
Late Thursday, Gov. Mike Easley denied Boyd's clemency request. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected final appeals by Boyd's lawyers.
"We went in and told him the governor turned him down and he handled it well," said Boyd's lawyer, Thomas Maher, who was among a succession of visitors at the state's Central Prison.
Larger-than-normal crowds of protesters were expected at the prison in Raleigh, and vigils were planned across the state. Prison officials planned to tighten security.
Boyd, 57, did not deny that he shot and killed Julie Curry Boyd, 36, and her father, 57-year-old Thomas Dillard Curry. Family members said Boyd stalked his estranged wife after they separated following 13 stormy years of marriage and once sent a son to her house with a bullet and a threatening note.
During the 1998 slayings, Boyd's son Christopher was pinned under his mother's body as Boyd unloaded a .357-Magnum into her. The boy pushed his way under a bed to escape the barrage. Another son grabbed the pistol while Boyd tried to reload.
The Supreme Court in 1976 ruled that capital punishment could resume after a 10-year moratorium. The first execution took place the following year, when Gary Gilmore went before a firing squad in Utah.
Boyd told The Associated Press in a prison interview that he wants no part of the infamous numerical distinction. "I'd hate to be remembered as that," Boyd said Wednesday. "I don't like the idea of being picked as a number."
The 1,001st could come Friday night, when South Carolina plans to put Shawn Humphries to death for the 1994 murder of a store clerk.
In Boyd's plea for clemency, his attorneys had argued his experiences in Vietnam - where as a bulldozer operator he was shot at by snipers daily - contributed to his crimes.
As the execution drew near, Boyd was visited by a son from a previous marriage, who was not present during the slayings.
"He made one mistake and now it's costing him his life," said Kenneth Smith, 35, who visited with his wife and two children. "A lot of people get a second chance. I think he deserves a second chance."
Smith's wife planned to witness the execution, as did two other family members of the victims whose relationship was not immediately clear. Boyd's lawyer, a small group of law enforcement officials and journalists also planned to watch through the thick, twin glass panes between the viewing room and the death chamber.