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Death Penalty Opponents Relieved With Execution Stay

January 14, 1992

HARRISBURG (AP) _ Capital punishment opponents were glad the state Supreme Court stopped the execution of Henry P. Fahy, who was convicted of the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 12-year-old niece.

Execution, they said, is savagery.

″I’m relieved,″ said Stefan Presser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued Fahy’s case.

Fahy would have been the first person executed since 1962, when Elmo Smith was electrocuted for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl from the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

Fahy, 34, of Philadelphia was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Rockview state prison in Bellefonte, Centre County. He was convicted of murdering Nicolette ″Nicky″ Caserta in 1981.

He strangled her with his hands, T-shirt and finally an electric washing machine cord and stabbed her 18 times, 14 times in the heart, officials said. She was found by her stepfather lying in a pool of blood, still dressed in her parochial school uniform.

Pennsylvania switched its execution method to lethal injection from the electric chair in 1990.

Opponents of capital punishment say the death penalty is cruel and inhumane no matter what crime was committed or what mode of execution is used.

″Executions themselves ought to be difficult for society to swallow,″ said Leigh Dingerson, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, based in Washington, D.C.

Dingerson and Pam Tucker, director for the Pennsylvania Project on Capital Punishment, do not buy the argument that lethal injection will be painless for Fahy.

Under the state’s procedures, Fahy would have been escorted to a small room, strapped to a gurney and covered up to the neck with a white sheet.

Officials would have rolled him into the death chamber and two intravenous tubes would have been slipped into each of Fahy’s arms. A heart monitor would have been attached.

At 10 p.m., officials would have drawn back from a glass window that separates Fahy from 12 people who witness the execution.

Corrections Department spokesman Ben Livingood said a combination of drugs are used in lethal injection. Livingood refused to name the drugs but said a strong barbiturate would have rendered Fahy unconscious and a paralytic agent would have stopped his body functions.

Dingerson said drugs commonly used in other states are pavlone, sodium thiopental and potassium chloride.

Livingood also would not comment on how much the procedure costs or how much the two-member execution team will be paid for their services.

Once the drugs were administered and the heart stopped, the curtain would be drawn. A doctor would examine the body and pronounce him dead.

The curtain would be reopened and Anthony DeAngelo, deputy of operations at Rockview, would announce the time of death.

Dingerson said the process is sometimes very painful.

″There have been a handful of lethal injections that the national coalition has considered botched,″ she said.

In 1985 in Texas, medical technicians had to probe both arms and legs of Stephen Peter Morin for 45 minutes before they found a vein appropriate to administer the drugs, according to articles provided by Dingerson’s organization.

While they searched, Morin was conscious, the articles stated.

In 1988, also in Texas, Raymond Landry was being executed by lethal injection when, two minutes into the execution, the syringe came out of Landry’s vein, spraying the chemical solution throughout the room. Landry was pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the gurney and 24 minutes after the drugs were injected, the articles said.

″Lethal injection is not humane,″ Tucker said.

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