Saturday, September 13, 2003

September 12, 2003

"It's a good day to die."

Last Meal: Hunt's last meal: a medium Domino's pizza with pepperoni, hamburger, Canadian bacon, sausage, onions, mushrooms and green peppers, and a 20-ounce Coke.

The skinny: Hunt was sentenced to death for two 1984 slayings, one the contract killing of a man whose wife wanted him dead and the other of a police informant.

Legal Machinations: Hunt's lawyers had challenged the state's mixture of drugs but the state Supreme Court rejected the challenge and overturned a lower court stay.

Hunt's lawyers also argued that several things raised serious questions about Hunt's guilt: an affidavit purporting to clear Hunt of the crime, Hunt's having passed recent lie-detector tests, the lack of physical evidence linking him to the murders and the destruction of case files by the Lumberton Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Hunt's appeals and Gov. Mike Easley refused to change the sentence to life in prison.

Killer Cocktail Info: At issue in Hunt's stay this week was the trio of drugs the state uses in all its executions: one to put the inmate to sleep, a second to stop breathing and a third to stop the heart.

The state uses: thiopental sodium, a sedative under the brand name Pentothal, which puts the inmate to sleep; and pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant with the brand name Pavulon, which stops breathing.

The third drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart.

Last Words and such: "It's a good day to die," was the final statement of Hunt.

As he was wheeled on a gurney into the execution chamber, Hunt looked through a thick glass window at his son and another brother, among the 15 witnesses watching the execution. The relatives wore yellow head bands like those Hunt usually wears and Hunt winked at them. Yellow is Henry Lee Hunt's spiritual color.

Factoids: Hunt, a Lumbee Indian, was the first American Indian to be executed by the state of North Carolina since capital punishment resumed in 1977. A total of 25 have been executed in that period and 201 inmates remain on death row.

There were more than 50 death penalty opponents outside the prison.
Many took part in an American Indian ritual in front of the prison.

J.R. Ghosthorse of Asheville, who is Lakota and Apache, burned sage and attached several scarves to a branch in a creche he had set up by the curb. With song and a drumbeat, he led the crowd in a ceremony, called a tate topa - the ceremony of the four winds - for Hunt. A woman waved an eagle's wing.

Four other people were sentenced to prison for their roles in the killings. All but one has since died.

Hunt was the....
55th murderer executed in U.S. in 2003
875th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in North Carolina in 2003
25th murderer executed in North Carolina since 1976