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Williams claims innocence just before execution

By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

ATMORE — Luther Jerome Williams was executed Thursday by lethal injection for the 1988 shooting death and robbery of a man abducted at random while checking a problem with his pickup on an interstate exit ramp.

Prison chaplain Chris Summers held Williams’ left hand and knelt in prayer as he died. He was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. at Holman prison near Atmore.

Williams, 47, was agitated and was told by the warden to “calm down” as he prepared to read the death warrant.

In his final comments, Williams maintained his innocence, saying his two co-defendants “put it on me” on orders from the trial prosecutor.

“I think it’s wrong,” he said.

Looking at the victim’s sister in the witness room he said, “I did not do it.”

Williams also said his conviction was the result of having “no defense” at trial, referring to his defense attorney.

Williams had lost appeals to state and federal courts, including a lethal injection challenge in his final days. The U.S Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, on Thursday denied an application for a stay of execution.

Gov. Bob Riley refused to intervene, saying there was no reason to delay the execution of a man convicted in a “random, cold-blooded crime” almost 20 years ago.

Williams was executed for the robbery and shooting death of 63-year-old John Robert Kirk on Jan. 23, 1988.

Kirk of Gordo was led into the woods, shot in the head and robbed when he stopped his truck on an Interstate 59 exit ramp to check a vehicle problem while driving home from work in Helena.

Kirk’s sister, Peggy Kirk Guy, and her son, Lewis Kirk Guy, witnessed the execution.

They both had no comment after the execution.

Williams’ scheduled witness, his spiritual adviser, Dan Blocker, was also present.

Two others convicted in the Kirk murder received life sentences. Trosky Eric Gregory, 43, was paroled in 2005, but returned to prison earlier this year after his parole was revoked. Albert Carmichael Jr., 45, was paroled in 2004.

Tuscaloosa attorney Joel L. Sogol, who helped wage Williams’ appeal, said Williams steadfastly claimed he was passed out drunk in the car when Kirk was shot by one of his two companions that Saturday afternoon.

Court record

According to the court record, Williams stole a car from a motel parking lot in Birmingham and found in the vehicle a .22 caliber pistol, which became the murder weapon.

Jurors in Tuscaloosa County voted 10-2 for the death sentence. At sentencing in 1989, the judge considered several factors, including Williams’ unstable childhood, his “anti-social personality disorder” and his extensive drug and alcohol abuse.

Williams had no history of violence, according to the court record. But the judge described these mitigating factors as “weak,” and no reason for him to choose an optional sentence of life in prison without parole.

Williams visited with his 18-year-old son, Koreen Bush, and two cousins Wednesday, and two spiritual advisors Thursday.

He requested a last meal of hot dogs, green salad with French dressing, and orange juice.

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

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