Local News

N.C. Executes Man Convicted Of Convenience Store Shooting Death

Posted August 22, 2003 8:12 a.m. EDT

— William Quentin Jones told his victim's family he was sorry before he was executed Friday for the shooting death of a man at a Raleigh convenience store.

Jones, 34, had been on death row since 1987, when a Wake County Superior Court jury convicted him of killing Edward Peebles, a plasterer who had stopped for coffee.

Jones was pronounced dead at 2:16 a.m. Friday after receiving an injection at Central Prison in Raleigh, where a small gallery of reporters, his family and the victim's family watched through a thick glass window.

Jones winked at his lawyer and his relatives when he was brought into the execution chamber.

WRAL-TV anchorman David Crabtree was one four media witnesses to the execution.

"Jones was far more animated than any other other [executions] that I had witnessed -- animated in the sense that from the moment he was wheeled into the execution chamber, he began trying to get messages both to his family members and to family members of his victim," Crabtree said.

During the 10 minutes Jones waited for the injection of lethal drugs, members of Peebles' family watched silently.

"It appeared to me he took great pains to catch the eyes of each of the victim's family members to say, 'I'm sorry,'" Crabtree said. "Then he mouthed the words 'I love you' to his attorney."

The family witnesses made no comment after the execution. Jones' last statement was made in English and Arabic asking for mercy.

Outside the prison, a group of between 30 and 40 death penalty opponents held a candlelight vigil.

Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, said a drug used in executions made the death appear peaceful but paralyzes muscles and masks any pain that the inmate may feel.

Marsha Early, assistant minister at North East Baptist Church in Durham, said she came to the protest because she believes the death penalty isn't administered uniformly.

"If the message is we'll kill you if you kill someone, it's not administered that way," Early said.

Jones had eaten his last meal by 5:30 p.m., while still waiting for word on whether he the U.S. Supreme Court or Gov. Mike Easley would stop his execution.

Jones requested a tossed salad with shredded carrots and cheese and thousand island dressing and a soda, said Pam Walker, a spokeswoman for the state Correction Department.

Jones was 18 when he came into the store and indiscriminately fired an Uzi, killing Peebles, during a robbery on March 7, 1987. The shooting also injured another customer, Orlando Watson.

Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and two separate juries sentenced him to die.

His attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but the court refused without comment Thursday to block the execution. Easley also declined to grant executive clemency.

Peebles' family told Easley that Jones deserved to die.

A tape from a security camera showed that Jones fired six shots from a gun as he entered the convenience store. He fired before announcing that he was robbing the store and discharged a total of 10 bullets.

Jones' lawyers argued that his death sentence should have been commuted because he was 18 years old at the time of the murder.

Since taking office in 2001, Easley -- a former prosecutor and state attorney general -- has granted clemency to two of the 12 other inmates who have had execution dates set. Of the 10 others, seven were executed.

Jones' execution was the first since the state Senate approved legislation in April to halt executions for two years. The House never took up the legislation, but could consider it next year. It also was the first since the execution of Henry Lee Hunt was stayed while the state Supreme Court reviewed, and upheld, the legality of the state's indictment form.

Two more executions are scheduled this year: Hunt on Sept. 12 and Joseph Earl Bates on Sept. 26. A total of 24 people have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.