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Judge Stays Henry Lee Hunt Execution

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LUMBERTON, N.C. — A Robeson County judge on Tuesday stayedthe upcoming execution of Henry Lee Hunt, who is accused of two killings, rulingthat the courts should consider a defense claim that the state usesan illegal drug.

Hunt was scheduled to die at 2 a.m. Friday at Raleigh's Central Prison for the two 1984deaths.

Judge Gary Locklear said the state should review the use of thedrug potassium chloride, which stops the heart from beating.

Defense lawyers argued that the state's use of the drug violatesa statute outlining the types of drugs for execution. They saidstate law allows just two drugs - a lethal barbituate and one thatcauses paralysis.

"It's too important not to consider at this point in hislife," Locklear said. "I think that issue is important enoughgiven the finality. It has nothing to do with his sentence."

Locklear denied a second stay request based on an 1989 affidavitfrom a dead co-defendant of Hunt who admitted to two killings anddenied Hunt had a part in them.

Defense lawyers said they intended to appeal that ruling, whilethe Attorney General's office announced its intention to appeal thestay.

Both appeals will be handled by the state Supreme Court.

Assistant state Attorney General Pat Murphy said the affidavithas no credibility and that its origins are suspicious because itwas only just disclosed this year. In addition, Barnes could notread, raising questions about who prepared the affidavit, Murphysaid. M.G. McNeill, a notary public who works at Central Prison,said in an affidavit dated Sept. 8 that he notarized Barnes'signature.

This is the second time that Hunt's scheduled execution has beendelayed.

His execution was stopped in January when lawyers challenged thestate's indictment form, but the state Supreme Court ruled the formconstitutional.

This time, defense attorney Steven Holley argued that potassiumchloride isn't among the two drugs approved in state statutes foruse in an execution.

State Deputy Attorney General Barry McNeill said the law onlyspecifies that those two drugs must be used and doesn't prohibitthe use of the third drug.

The hearing came a day after Hunt's family and attorneys held anews conference to reiterate his innocence.

Attorney Stuart Meiklejohn said defense attorneys have sent asupplemental clemency petition to Gov. Mike Easley, eight monthsafter Hunt's clemency hearing in January.

"Our submission is that Henry Lee Hunt is innocent,"Meiklejohn said. "At a minimum there are such substantialquestions about his guilt that execution would be an inappropriateand unjust outcome."

Jurors convicted Hunt in the death of Jackie Ransom, whose wifepaid to have him killed to make her second marriage legal. He alsowas convicted of killing Larry Jones, a police informantprosecutors said knew about Ransom's killing.

Four other people were sentenced to prison for their roles inthe killings. They include Dorothy Locklear, Ransom's wife, andRogers Locklear, Dorothy Locklear's second husband. They servedless than five years each for conspiracy to commit murder.

A.R. Barnes, who the state said recruited Hunt to help with thekilling, served less than eight years. Barnes was sentenced todeath in Jones' homicide and died in prison.

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