Local News

Hunt Set To Die By Lethal Injection Friday

Posted September 11, 2003 3:46 a.m. EDT

— Convicted murderer Henry Lee Hunt is set to die by lethal injection 2 a.m. Friday after the State Supreme Court overturned a stay ordered by Robeson County Judge Gary Locklear.

Hunt's lawyer argued that state law requires the use of two types of drugs - a fast-acting barbiturate and a paralytic agent. Attorney Steven Holley said the state illegally added potassium chloride, which stops the heart, to the mixture.

Locklear had ruled that the state Supreme Court should have time to review whether the state should only use two drugs, not the three it now uses, for lethal injections.

The use of the word "only" when describing the lethal injection process "does not reflect a legislative intent to limit the drugs or chemicals that can be used during a lethal injection execution, but rather limits the method of execution in North Carolina solely to lethal injection instead of asphyxiation by lethal gas or some other method," the court ruled Thursday.

The court also denied Hunt's innocence claim.

Hunt's attorneys also have filed an innocence claim with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorney Stuart Meiklejohn said. Other than that, "it will be in Gov. Easley's hands, and we're hopeful he'll see merit in our clemency petition," he said.

Easley has yet to decide on clemency for Hunt.

"I'm thoroughly familiar with with case. I've been through not only the briefs, the hearings and meetings with the attorneys and family," he said.

State prosecutors and Robeson County District Johnson Britt did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Hunt, 58, was sentenced to death for two Robeson County killings in 1984, but he has maintained his innocence.

"I'll maintain my innocence till the day I die," he said.

This is the second time that Hunt's execution has been delayed.

It was originally scheduled for January but was stopped when lawyers challenged the state's indictment form. The state Supreme Court ultimately ruled the form constitutional.

His lawyers raised the same issue Wednesday in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jurors convicted Hunt in the death of Jackie Ransom, whose wife paid to have him killed to make her second marriage legal. He also was convicted of killing Larry Jones, a police informant prosecutors said knew about Ransom's killing.

Four other people were sentenced to prison for their roles in the killings. All but one has since died.

Hunt's lawyers said Wednesday night they planned to seek a full DNA report from the state on a cigarette butt for use in a possible appeal.

The butt, which prosecutors have said linked Hunt to the crime, was tested by a state lab last week, but no DNA could be recovered.

Holley has said he wants a more thorough DNA test performed to determine if there is any genetic material on the butt.