Local News

Carter Executed After Easley Denies Clemency

Posted December 10, 2002

— A man who brutally stabbed his elderly neighbor over a few dollars for drugs died peacefully Tuesday in the state's execution chamber after last-minute appeals failed.

Desmond Keith Carter, 35, was executed hours after the U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to stop his execution. Gov. Mike Easley also declined to change the death sentence to life in prison without parole.

Carter was the 23rd person executed in North Carolina since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. The last execution was Friday, when Ernest Basden was put to death for the 1992 murder-for-hire of a Kinston insurance agent.

Carter's father, William Conway, and defense lawyer Bill Osteen sat sandwiched between two detectives on the front row of the execution witness room.

Two relatives of Carter victim Helen Purdy, 71, of Rockingham County, watched intently from the second row, where they sat between a detective and a prosecutor.

Lawyers have said Carter was intoxicated on alcohol, crack cocaine and tranquilizers when he stabbed Purdy 13 times with a butcher knife and took $15.

"I love you, pop," Carter mouthed to his father as a drug put him to sleep before a powerful muscle relaxer stopped his breathing.

In a last statement recorded by warden R.C. Lee of Central Prison, home of the state's death row, Carter said:

"The only thing I would like to say is that I apologize to the victim's family of Ms. Purdy, and I would like to apologize to my family for the disappointment and pain I have caused them throughout my life."

No one from the Purdy or Carter families spoke to reporters after the execution.

Carter's half brother, Tryone Wallace, stood with death penalty protesters outside the prison.

Carter's last meal consisted of two cheeseburgers, a steak sub and two Cokes from the prison canteen.

He declined to ask for a special last meal and paid $4.20 from his prison account for the food, said Pam Walker, a Corrections Department spokeswoman.

Defense lawyers' appeal to the nation's highest court challenged a state Supreme Court rejection of a stay that was issued last week by a lower court judge. The Supreme Court turned down the request without comment.

Spokesman Ed Turner said the U.S. Supreme Court also denied a second appeal filed late Monday on the grounds that some jurors used a Bible during deliberations.

In the first high-court appeal, the defense asked for review of Carter's case on three issues: racial bias in the death penalty, lack of prosecutorial discretion to seek a life in prison sentence for first-degree murder and the state's indictment form that doesn't list all factors against a defendant.

Carter's lawyers said the death sentence was flawed by racial bias because his victim was white and he is black. Prosecutors have in recent years had the option of seeking a life sentence since the Legislature changed the law.


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