URGENT Va. Inmate Executed For Strangling
Apr. 15, 1988
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Earl Clanton Jr. went quietly to his death in the electric chair Thursday night for strangling a neighbor during a 1980 robbery.
Clanton, 33, was pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m., six minutes after the first of two, one-minute jolts of 2,500 volts each was administered, said state Department of Corrections spokesman Wayne Farrar.
Clanton, who had escaped from death row in 1984, had no final statement and showed little emotion as he went to his death. The prison chaplain, Russ Ford, turned his back on the electric chair as the sentence was carried out.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the day had set the stage for the seventh execution in Virginia since 1982 when it unanimously overturned a stay granted Tuesday by a federal judge.
Later Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 vote, denied a stay, and Gov. Gerald L. Baliles refused clemency an hour before Clanton went to his death.
Clanton was convicted by a Petersburg jury in 1981 of murdering 38-year-old Wilhemina Smith, a school librarian who lived in his apartment building. He was on parole at the time for a 1972 murder conviction in New Jersey.
The execution was the 98th in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 allowed states to resume use of the death penalty.
Besides his mother, a sister, two aunts and lawyers, Clanton's last visitors included Jay North, the 1960s child TV star of ''Dennis the Menace.'' North has been working on a movie about the 1984 escape of Clanton and five other Virginia death row prisoners.
''We became extremely close friends,'' said North. ''We've been in contant communication, wrote and called. We became like brothers.''
About 50 death penalty opponents conducted a vigil and prayer service outside the prison. A single supporter of capital punishment shouted, ''Pray for the woman that died.''
The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court had centered on abuse Clanton contended he suffered as a child but did not disclose until after being sentenced to death.
The appeal cited a psychiatric report saying Clanton suppressed memories of his violent childhood, thus hampering defense efforts to present mitigating evidence that could have resulted in a life sentence.
However, the federal appeals court said that Clanton's case had been given least 10 reviews in state and federal courts and that his sentencing had been found constitutional.
In addition, the court said, Clanton's attorney had failed during a previous federal appeal to raise the issue of abuse.
Clanton was one of six death row inmates who escaped from the Mecklenburg Correctional Center in 1984. He was recaptured a day later while eating cheese and drinking wine with another escapee at a coin laundry in Warrenton, N.C.
At his 1981 trial, Clanton refused his lawyer's request to submit to a psychiatric examination, and the only mitigating evidence presented to the jury at his sentencing hearing was that he attended Bible classes while in jail awaiting trial.
After the trial, Clanton said he was beaten as a child by his father and was sexually abused by his stepmother. After leaving his father, he moved to New Jersey to live with his mother and was convicted of a murder. He was later paroled.