Monday, May 13, 2002

Leslie Dale Martin
May 10, 2002


Condemned killer meets death, extends no apology to family

THE SKINNY: Leslie Dale Martin went to his death Friday night for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old McNeese State University coed. A Calcasieu Parish jury sentenced Martin to death for the June 20, 1991, rape and murder of Christina Burgin, 19, who was last seen leaving a Lake Charles bar with Martin. Her decomposing body was found nearly two weeks later in a shed near Iowa, in Calcasieu Parish. Prosecutors said Martin, after raping Burgin, choked her with a rope, cut her throat, gouged out her eyes and jumped up and down on a board placed across her neck. They said Martin blinded his victim to prevent her from identifying him if she survived.

FACTOIDS: Before facing the executioner's needles, Martin offered no public apology for the slaying, Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain said.

It was Louisiana's 27th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979 and the first since June 2000.

Martin had a date with death on Feb. 8, but U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia halted the execution about 20 minutes before Martin was scheduled to enter the death chamber at Angola's Camp F. The high court decided in March, however, not to hear his case.

The temporary stay of execution was Martin's fifth, and followed attempts by his attorneys to discredit the testimony of a witness they called a "jailhouse snitch."

Louisiana law allows the death penalty only when there are certain aggravating circumstances in a murder. In Martin's case, it was the commission of a rape.

SUSAN SARANDON MOMENT: The Moratorium Group, a New Orleans-based organization chaired by death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean, called for rallies Friday evening at several locations across the state to protest the execution.

The group pointed to Thursday's decision by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening to suspend all executions in that state until the University of Maryland completes a study to determine whether racial or geographical bias figures in death sentences.

"I would hope our governor recognizes the very same problems exist here in Louisiana," Prejean said in a statement released Friday.

PACKED HOUSE: Martin's did not get his first choice for a familiar face in the witness room. Martin asked Thursday that an investigator on his legal team be allowed to witness his final moments, but Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder turned down the request.

Louisiana law allows no more than seven people to be present for an execution, and Martin waited too late to make his request because the seats in the witness room had been allotted.

LAST MEAL AND A SHOW: Martin ate his last meal consisting of boiled crawfish, crawfish stew, garden salad, cookies and chocolate milk at 4:45 p.m. after saying good-bye to his mother and sister about an hour earlier.

Cain said Martin joked with his Buddhist spiritual adviser about peeling crawfish during the meal.

THE DEFIANT ONES: In November 1999, Martin and three other condemned men rocked Angola when they escaped from their cells and the building that houses Louisiana's Death Row.

After officers found them missing, an Angola chase team and a bloodhound tracked them down in a swampy area of the prison grounds near the Mississippi River.

Cain blamed the security lapse on a guard who accepted a bribe to smuggle hacksaw blades to the inmates and inattention by other officers who should have noticed the men cutting their cell doors and a window during a two- to three-week period.

No one was prosecuted because of the incident, however.