A killer on North Carolina’s death row worried Wednesday about becoming a macabre footnote to history — the 1,000th person executed in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
“I’d hate to be remembered as that,” 57-year-old Kenneth Lee Boyd told The Associated Press in a prison interview. “I don’t like the idea of being picked as a number.”
But with no doubt of Boyd’s guilt in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her father in 1988, it appeared unlikely the courts or Gov. Mike Easley would stop the execution, set for 2 a.m. Friday by lethal injection.
In Virginia, Gov. Mark Warner spared the life Tuesday of Robin Lovitt, who was set to be No. 1,000 for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a pool-hall robbery. The governor said that key evidence — namely the bloody scissors — had been improperly destroyed, preventing the defense from subjecting it to the latest in DNA testing.
A similar incident led Easley to grant clemency to a death row inmate in 2002, and he did it one other time, in 2001, when defense attorneys argued the jury was racially biased against their client, a black man convicted of killing the husband of a white woman with whom he had been having an affair.
In all, 22 killers have been put to death during Easley’s nearly five years as governor. Boyd would be the 39th inmate executed in North Carolina since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume.
A spokeswoman for Easley said only that he will treat Boyd’s case like others he has considered.
In a prison interview, Boyd did not deny shooting Julie Curry Boyd and her father, Thomas Dillard Curry. The Boyds were separated at the time, and Julie Boyd was living with her father. Boyd suspected his wife was having an affair.
Boyd said he was drinking the night of the murders.
“I remember sitting in my house, nobody there,” he said. “I blinked my eyes and I’d done shot my father-in-law. When they told me how many times I shot her, I couldn’t believe it.” He added: “It’s just a thing that happened, just snapped.”
In his clemency petition, Boyd’s attorneys argued his experiences in Vietnam — where as a bulldozer operator he was shot at by snipers daily — contributed to his crimes. He began drinking while overseas.
Boyd called the death penalty “nothing but revenge.”
Defense attorney Thomas Maher said he hoped the attention of the 1,000th execution would lead Easley to grant clemency.
Unlike Warner, who is considered a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, Easley — a popular Democratic governor who is barred by law from seeking a third term — has no apparent political ambitions beyond his current job.
“The unpopular decision would likely be to stay the execution,” said Wake Forest University political science professor John Dinan. But even if he did so, given the governor’s high approval ratings, “there’s no reason to expect any political repercussions or harm.”