Execution Delay Stuns Victim's Friends, Family
Posted January 26, 2007
Robinson had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 2 a.m. Friday at Central Prison in Raleigh. But a judge on Thursday halted the execution, as well as one scheduled for Feb. 2, ruling that the state couldn't guarantee inmates would suffer cruel and unusual punishment without the assistance of physicians.
State law requires that a doctor be present at executions, but the North Carolina Medical Board last week passed a policy prohibiting physicians from participating in executions because that would violate their code of ethics.
The ruling stunned friends and relatives of Erik Tornblom, a 17-year-old who Robinson killed in June 1991.
Tornblom gave Robinson and Roderick Sylvester Williams Jr. a ride from a Fayetteville convenience store. Tornblom was forced to drive to a field where he was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun, and his wallet and car were taken.
Williams, 32, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995. He was a schoolmate of Tornblom's at Douglas Byrd High School.
"I know his family needs closure, and for that I am so sorry," said Jane Fields, a former classmate of Tornblom's.
Tornblom's family declined to comment on the delayed execution Friday, saying they might have something to say if and when Robinson is put to death.
An entire page of Fields' high school yearbook was dedicated to Tornblom. She said she and other students still remember his death vividly.
"You remember tales of him being laid down and shot senselessly, and it's something you'll never forget," she said. "It was just very upsetting because he was supposed to have his whole life ahead of him."
Another former Douglas Byrd High student has a more personal reason for being upset that Robinson's execution was postponed. She served on the jury that sentenced him to die.
"I thought, 'You have got to be kidding me,'" said the woman, who wanted to be identified only as "Miriam" because she still fears for her safety.
"I've waited 16 years for this, looking in the paper year after year waiting for this," she said. "To see (Tornblom's) family hurt and cry every day during the court case, you just wanted this day to come."
The juror still has flashbacks about the grisly details of the slaying, and she said the decision to sentence Robinson to death was an easy one for her.
"The way he sat motionless through the whole trial -- no regret, no remorse -- it does something to you as a juror," she said.