News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2007

Execution set in Tuscaloosa County slaying

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Supreme Court has set an Aug. 23 execution date for Luther Jerome Williams, who was sent to death row for a 1988 killing in Tuscaloosa County and is the second inmate scheduled to die this summer at Holman Prison in Atmore.

In an order Monday, the state's highest court granted a request by the state attorney general's office to schedule the execution of Williams because he has been through three rounds of appeals of his conviction.

The last death row inmate executed in Alabama was Aaron Lee Jones on May 3 for the 1978 slaying of a Blount County couple.

Darrell Grayson, who is on death row for the 1980 rape and killing of an elderly woman in her Montevallo home, is scheduled for execution July 26.

Grayson had asked U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins to delay the execution so Grayson's lawyers can pursue a challenge of Alabama's lethal injection procedures. But the judge, who had indicated a hearing might be held June 26 on the challenge, rejected the delay and the challenge in an order Thursday.

Grayson's attorney, Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said Monday he will appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

In Williams' case, court papers filed by the attorney general's office say he stole a car from a motel parking lot in Birmingham on Jan. 22, 1988. The car had a .22-caliber pistol in the trunk. The next morning, John Robert Kirk was on his way home from work when he stopped his pickup on the side of Interstate 59 near the West Blocton exit in Tuscaloosa County.

'Execution style'

Williams and two other men stopped to rob Kirk. Williams led Kirk into a nearby wooded area and shot him "execution style" in the head with the stolen .22-caliber pistol, and then the trio took Kirk's money and truck, leaving Kirk's body in the woods.

Williams' attorneys, Christopher Little of Providence, R.I., and Joel Sogol, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

Williams filed a legal challenge of Alabama's lethal injection procedure in April, claiming it can cause "excruciating pain" if the first drug, sodium pentothal, does not depress the central nervous system before the inmate receives pancuronium bromide to paralyze the diaphragm and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

In a court filing, Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw described Williams' case as a "cookie cutter pleading" like Grayson's and said it should be dismissed because Williams has already been on a "19-year odyssey through the state and federal court system where his sentence and conviction were affirmed at every turn."

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is considering the request to dismiss.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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