ATLANTA - Barring a last-minute intervention by the courts, a Georgia man who killed his girlfriend is likely to become the first inmate put to death since a U.S. Supreme Court review halted executions last September.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday denied William Earl Lynd's appeal for clemency, rejecting his lawyer's argument that forensic evidence at his 1990 trial was flawed and clearing the way for his execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
On Monday two other states — Texas and Mississippi — also scheduled executions that had been on hold.
Lynd, 53, has a request for a stay before the Georgia Supreme Court, but preparations were moving forward for his execution. He has already selected his final meal: two pepper jack barbecue burgers with crisp onions; two baked potatoes with sour cream, bacon and cheese; and a strawberry milkshake.
He would be the first inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Kentucky's method of executing inmates with a three-drug injection is constitutional. Roughly three dozen states, including Georgia, use a similar method.
Following the decision to review Kentucky's lethal injections, those states stopped executing inmates for seven months, the longest pause in 25 years. Texas conducted the last execution, putting Michael Richard to death on Sept. 25, 2007, the same day the Supreme Court agreed to consider the Kentucky case, brought by two prisoners who claimed the lethal injection method violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lynd was sentenced to die for kidnapping and shooting his live-in girlfriend, Ginger Moore, 26, in south Georgia in 1988, after the two consumed Valium, marijuana and alcohol. Prosecutors said she suffered a slow, agonizing death, regaining consciousness twice after being shot in the head.
The medical examiner testified that Moore was still alive when Lynd stuffed her into the trunk of her car. Lynd confessed that when he heard her thumping around, he opened the trunk and fired the lethal shot.
The allegation that Lynd kidnapped Moore before she died was what made him eligible for the death penalty. But Lynd's lawyers argued the medical examiner who did Moore's autopsy was wrong to say she could have regained consciousness after the second shot.
A doctor hired by the defense found that Moore was already dead when she was placed in the trunk, which would make Lynd innocent of the kidnapping charge, his attorneys said. The original medical examiner now agrees it is unlikely Moore was still alive, according to defense attorney Tom Dunn's legal filing.
Lawyers say Lynd and Moore had a volatile relationship and were in a heated argument over a trip to Florida when he shot her.
"This crime was hot blooded and without premeditation," Dunn wrote in his application to the parole board. "Tragic — yes. Cold blooded — no."
Dunn also told the state parole board that the jury that sentenced Lynd to death never learned he had been sexually molested by neighbors at age 8, a possible mitigating factor.
After Lynd buried Moore's body in a shallow grave near a south Georgia farm, authorities said he fled to Ohio, where he shot and killed another woman who had stopped along the side of the road to help him.
The five-member parole board rejected his plea Monday without comment.
Death penalty opponents plan vigils around Georgia Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, a Mexican-born Texas prisoner whose death sentence set off an international dispute and a U.S. Supreme Court rebuke of the White House also received an execution date Monday.
Texas State District Judge Caprice Cosper set the Aug. 5 lethal injection for 33-year-old Jose Medellin for his participation in the gang rape and strangulation deaths of two teenage girls when they stumbled upon a gang initiation rite 15 years ago in Houston.
The Supreme Court in March refused to hear Medellin's appeal, saying President Bush overstepped his authority by ordering Texas to reopen his case and the cases of 50 other Mexican nationals condemned for murders in the U.S. Texas refused to comply.
Medellin is among 14 native Mexicans on death row in Texas. Mexico has no death penalty and sued the United States in the world court in 2003. Mexico and other opponents of capital punishment have sought to use the world court to fight for foreigners facing executions.
And in Mississippi on Monday, the state Supreme Court scheduled a May 21 execution for Earl Wesley Berry.
Attorney General Jim Hood had requested that Berry be executed Monday. However, the court set the date for later this month after rejecting arguments from Berry's lawyers that he should be spared because he is mentally disabled, and that the method of lethal injection is unconstitutional.
Berry, who turned 49 on Monday, was convicted of kidnapping Mary Bounds from the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Houston, Miss., on Nov. 29, 1987. He beat her viciously then dumped her body in the woods.
The U.S. Supreme Court had blocked Berry's last scheduled execution on Oct. 30, 2007 in order to consider the Kentucky case.