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Tennessee, condemned inmate wait in limbo

Convicted serial killer and death row inmate Paul Dennis Reid is awaiting decisions from two courts on if he should be killed after he was given a stay of execution Wednesday morning.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tennessee was awaiting word Wednesday from the federal courts on whether it could carry out a second execution just hours after it put an inmate to death for the first time in 45 years.

Tennessee had scheduled back-to-back executions for Alley and convicted serial killer Paul Dennis Reid. But Reid’s execution was delayed by a federal judge who said a hearing was needed to determine whether the inmate was mentally competent to give up appeals of his seven death sentences.

Sedley Alley, convicted of raping and killing a jogger, was pronounced dead shortly after 3 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

The state appealed that order to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and, when a three-judge panel hadn’t ruled by late afternoon, the attorney general decided to take the issue directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It wasn’t clear when either court might rule.

Execution expected anytime
The execution could be anytime Wednesday if the stay is overruled, and prison officials said they were prepared if that should happen.

News media witnesses had been at the prison since noon and were ordered to stay there until the execution happens or the order expires. Witnesses from the families of Reid’s seven victims were in contact with prison officials, said prison spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.

“We recognize it’s been a difficult few years, but we’re doing all we can to accommodate the families,” Carter said.

Reid, 48, was convicted of murdering seven people at three Tennessee restaurants in 1997 after he was fired from his job as a dishwasher at Shoney’s.

Sarah Jackson, 16, and Steve Hampton, 25, were slain execution-style at a Captain D’s. Ronald Santiago, 27, Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23, and Andrea Brown, 17, were killed the next month in a midnight robbery at a nearby McDonald’s.

Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16, were kidnapped in an April 1997 robbery at a Baskin-Robbins store in Clarksville, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Their throats were slashed and their bodies dumped in a nature preserve.

Tormented by the military
Reid, who has been found to be brain-damaged and schizophrenic, has told reporters and his legal team that he is being controlled, monitored and tormented by a military government. His lawyers say he has quit cooperating with them because he thinks they are part of the effort to harm him.

Reid dropped his appeals once before and came within hours of being executed in 2003 before he was persuaded to resume his legal fight. If he chooses to resume his appeals again, a stay would be likely.

In Tennessee’s earlier execution, Alley, 50, confessed to killing 19-year-old Marine Suzanne Collins in 1985 while she jogged near a Navy base north of Memphis.

Alley claimed at trial that he was not responsible for the murder because he had multiple personalities. But in 2004, he recanted his confession, argued he was innocent and said DNA testing could prove it. He failed to persuade judges to release evidence.

Railroad killer also executed
On Tuesday, Texas put to death Angel Maturino Resendiz, known as the Railroad Killer. Claudia Benton, 39, was stabbed, bludgeoned and raped in her Houston home in 1998. Her slaying came during a deadly spree in 1998 and 1999 that earned Resendiz a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list as authorities searched for a murderer who slipped across the U.S. border and roamed the country by freight train.

Her death was among eight in Texas linked to Resendiz. He was suspected in two more murders in both Illinois and Florida, and one each in Kentucky, California and Georgia.