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Scheduled N.C. Execution Draws Nationwide Attention

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina death row inmate said he does not remember much about killing his estranged wife and her father, and does not feel his crime deserves a death sentence.
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    Kenneth Lee Boyd, who was convicted of the 1988 deaths of his wife and father-in-law in Rockingham County, told

    The Associate Press

    in a prison interview that he does not "like the idea of being picked as a number." Instead, he said he should be in prison for the rest of his life.

    The 57-year-old moved into the international spotlight Tuesday when Virginia Gov. Mark Warner granted clemency to a Robin Lovitt, who was scheduled to die Wednesday for a 1999 murder. Lovitt would have been the 1,000th person to be put to death since capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976.

    With clemency for Lovitt, Boyd's execution, scheduled for 2 a.m. Friday, means he would be the 1,000th person executed. But to those who know Boyd, the execution it is about the man, not the number.

    "Kenneth Boyd is a living, breathing human being," said Boyd's attorney, Tom Maher. "This is about whether he should die, not whether he is 999, 1000 or 1001."

    But not everyone agrees. Wayne Uber, whose twin brother was killed in Florida in 1995, says when opponents and proponents of the death penalty talk about numbers, they should also think about victims. The 999 executions, so far, stem from cases where there were more than 1,700 victims.

    "It provides the judicial system with one means to permanently remove murderers who represent harm to anyone and everyone as long as they are allowed to live," Uber said.

    North Carolina death penalty opponents predict the milestone will bring protesters from all over the nation to Raleigh. Those who were traveling to Virginia to protest are now redirecting to the Triangle. Opponents of the death penalty say protests are scheduled in more than 12 cities around the state and country.

    "When we gather at every execution, it's to say every life is precious and we do not have the right to take any of those," said Sarah Jobe, a protester with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, who was out in front of the state capitol Wednesday.

    Maher filed two last-minute federal appeals on Boyd's behalf Wednesday after a U.S. District Court judge rejected an appeal Tuesday, saying the inmate "has a nearly nonexistent likelihood of success"

    One appeal filed in the U.S. Supreme Court alleges problems with the jury during the 1994 trial. Maher argued that jurors did not take the case seriously because they knew it was a retrial. The appeal also claimed that one juror knew a witness in the case and had experience with domestic violence, but did not disclose the conflict of interest.

    The other one, filed in the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, raises concerns about the process of lethal injection. Maher argued that the state's procedure for death by injection would subject Boyd to a painful "cut-down" procedure to insert needles through cuts in his arms because his veins would be difficult to reach. He also challenged the mixture of chemicals used to put an inmate to sleep and kill him, saying it was insufficient and would cause Boyd to suffer unnecessarily.

    "The realist in me knows it's an uphill battle, but it's worth fighting for Kenneth," Maher said.

    Short of legal intervention, Gov. Mike Easley is the only person who can stop the execution. Easley has granted clemency only twice since taking office in 2001. Earlier this month, he rejected two other requests from other death row inmates.

    Easley spokeswoman Cari Boyce said the governor will treat the execution like others he has considered.

    "The governor gives every clemency case careful and thorough review," Boyce said. "This case is no exception."

    Prison officials moved Boyd to the deathwatch area, a small cellblock across the hall from the death chamber, on Tuesday afternoon. He was scheduled to begin visits with relatives Wednesday afternoon.

    Maher said he expects to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of appeals on Thursday. Easley will wait for the legal process to end before he makes his decision.


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