Condemned Murderer: 'Father, I Am Here'
Aug. 01, 1986
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A man who said the devil made him rape and murder a woman has been executed in Virginia's electric chair after spending 8 1/2 years on death row.
''Father, I am here,'' Michael Marnell Smith said just before the first of two 55-second jolts of current ran through his body Thursday night, a half hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
Smith, 40, who spent more time on death row than anyone else now facing execution in Virginia, died at the State Penitentiary at 11:42 p.m., said Corrections Department spokesman Wayne Farrar.
In a 5-3 decision, the nation's highest court rejected Smith's appeal at 11:10 p.m. Earlier in the day, federal district and appeals court judges refused to block the execution, the state's fifth since it resumed executions in 1982 and first in more than a year. The execution was the nation's 12th this year.
Smith was condemned for the May 23, 1977, murder of Audrey Jean Weiler, a mother of two who was attacked as she strolled by the James River on her 36th birthday. He had been out of prison for less than five months after serving three years for rape.
In an affidavit, Smith said he met Mrs. Weiler on a beach and helped her pull some thorns from her feet. He then took her to the woods, forced her to disrobe, raped her, choked her, dragged her to the beach, held her head under water, stabbed her three times and left her corpse in the river.
He blamed his crimes on the devil.
Smith appeared dazed when led into the execution chamber, then peered into the witness room, which was occupied by reporters for the first time since the resumption of executions in Virginia. He prayed from the moment he was brought in until the first surge of electricity hit him.
''I come to thee, O Lord,'' he said. ''Father, your holy spirit, accept me, O Lord, I pray.''
''Father,'' he said, ''I am here.''
The prison chaplain responded, ''God bless you,'' as the current jolted Smith's body.
Outside the prison, about 100 people protested for and against the death penalty.
Smith's lawyers had requested a stay of execution from the lower courts until the Supreme Court could rule on whether death sentences are applied unfairly against blacks when whites are the victims.
Smith was black and his victim white.
The Supreme Court, without comment, refused to review the appeal, with Justices Harry A. Blackmun, William Brennan Jr. and Thurgood Marshall dissenting, and John Paul Stevens not participating.
Smith had been ''pleasant, cooperative and very much in contact with reality'' as he awaited his execution, said Dwight Perry, operations officer at the penitentiary. Smith, a father of three, was visited by at least three clergymen and a brother during his final hours.