Local News

Rich Put to Death by Lethal Injection

Posted March 25, 1999

— A man on death row for stabbing a fellow inmate to death was executed by lethal injection at 9:22 p.m. Friday.

TheU.S. Supreme Courtmade the final decision Thursday night to putJames David Rich, 26, to death. Governor Hunt also refused a last-minute plea for clemency.

"He carried out this murder with clear intent, in a calculated, cold-bloded manner, and with a full knowledge of the consequences," Hunt said in a release.

Members of thePeople of Faith Against the Death Penaltymet with Hunt at the Wilson County Courthouse Friday morning. They told the governor Rich should not be executed because he is mentally ill.

The Rev. Diane Corlett of Raleigh told the governor that Rich had the comprehension of a 10-year-old.

"This is a very unusual case, even for us as abolitionists," Corlett said. "We do not believe Mr. Rich fully understood the implications of the murder he committed. He had no clue of what was coming next. Now, we are in the position of state-assisted suicide."

The group said even family members of the victim were against putting Rich to death.

"They're against the death penalty. They've told me repeatedly that if James Rich is executed it will be just like another murder," said Stephen Dear, the executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, before the execution.

Department of Correctionspokesperson Patty McQuillan explains why the execution was held at 9 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.

"The witnesses need to be brought in from several hours away and the condemned person needs time to visit with their family so that's only right to let them have that time," McQuillan said.

By the time the Supreme Court gave the state the go ahead to execute Rich, there was not enough time to prepare for the original 2:00 a.m. execution. The state had 24 hours to reschedule.

Rich spent Friday in the death watch area at Central Prison. He ordered a last meal of pizza and Pepsi. In his last statement, Rich, who became a Muslim in the last year, praised Allah and asked for mercy for the world.

Meanwhile about 35 people, including some children and a toddler in a stroller, stood quietly outside Central Prison in the rain.

Dear said the low turnout of protesters was mainly due to the U.S. Supreme Court's late ruling.

"Mr. Rich as a mentally ill man with a low IQ was allowed to represent himself,'' said Mary Rider, a social worker for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. ``He has wanted to be dead all his life.''

Ed Rawls, a pastor at Good Shepherd Church in Cary, said he's been visiting with Rich at the prison.

"To him this is a way out," he said before the execution was to be carried out.

Rich not only represented himself at his trial, but he later fired appeals lawyers and asked to be executed. But at different times he has asked that his execution not go forward, said attorneys and supporters.

"Because he is so sick, he is not able to make that decision," Ms. Rider said.

Rich was the youngest person to die underNorth Carolina's death penalty lawsince it was reinstated in 1977.

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