US death row inmate Eric Nance was executed by injection early today following a 90 minute delay so US Supreme Court judges could consider separate claims that he was mentally retarded and that additional DNA testing might clear his name.
During the delay, Nance awaited execution in a holding cell near Arkansas’ death chamber.
In an execution nine years ago, a death row inmate was left on a gurney for 40 minutes with needles in his arms while judges deliberated.
After the justices rejected Nance’s pleas, Arkansas executed him for the killing and attempted rape of Julie Heath, 18, of Malvern.
She was last seen on October 11, 1993 and a hunter found her body seven days later. Her throat had been slashed with a box cutter.
“This is not easy for any of us and we do feel for his mother, his family,” said Johnie Hood, a cousin of the victim. “I just pray that Julie rests in peace now. He couldn’t say he was sorry. What he went through tonight was painless compared to what he put Julie through.”
Hood and other family members watched the execution via closed-circuit television in a prison office. Heath’s mother Nancy killed herself a year after her daughter’s murder.
In January 1997, while US Supreme Court justices considered whether to stop Kirt Wainwright’s execution, guards left the inmate strapped to a gurney with needles in his arms. After a 40-minute delay, the execution proceeded. The prison said it would have been cruel to take Wainwright back to his cell and have him walk a second time to the death chamber.