Friday, December 13, 2002

December, 12, 2002

Are you going to San Francisco?

Last Meal:
a double cheeseburger, fries, peach or cherry cobbler, a pint of vanilla ice cream and a large bottle of cran-grape juice.

The Skinny: Jay Wesley Neill, a 37-year-old gay man, died by lethal injection. Neill was one of two men who robbed a bank in Geronimo, Okla., in 1984. During the robbery, Neill and his partner Robert Johnson stabbed three bank employees to death, and also shot four customers, one of whom also died. Neill was 19 at the time.

You can't live on love alone. Neill and Johnson met at a bar in February 1984 and became romantically involved. They shared an apartment, a car and the bills, but soon found themselves in money trouble. Neill had told two friends the bank would be easy to rob because it had little security.

In the days before the robbery, Neill and Johnson bought two knives and booked plane tickets to San Francisco. On the day of the robbery, the men bought a .32-caliber pistol and a box of ammunition. They also moved their flight departure time up from 6 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

At about 1:30 p.m., Neill held up the bank, officials said. He forced three employees into a back room where they were stabbed a total of 75 times, authorities said. "It was like everything else blacked out and you're not really aware of what was going on," Neill said during a taped interview with the religious television show "The 700 Club" in 1986.

An hour later, the men boarded a plane in Lawton headed for Dallas, then caught a connecting flight to San Francisco. They left Oklahoma with nearly $17,000 and booked a hotel room and 24-hour limousine service. While there, they shopped, toured the city and went to night clubs.

Witness accounts and tips from the men's friends led the FBI to their San Francisco hotel.

The Gay Brou-ha-ha: Opponents of capital punishment decry all executions, but in this case, advocates like Amnesty International have an additional reason to plead for clemency: anti-gay bias.

Addressing the jury during the sentencing phase of Neill's trial in 1992, the prosecutor said:

"I want you to think briefly about the man you're sitting in judgment on and determining what the appropriate punishment should be ... I'd like to go through some things that to me depict the true person, what kind of person he is. He is a homosexual. The person you're sitting in judgment on -- disregard Jay Neill. You're deciding life or death on a person that's a vowed (sic) homosexual ... But these are areas you consider whenever you determine the type of person you're sitting in judgment on. ... The individual's homosexual."

Last words and such: "I want everyone to know that I'm really sorry for what I did. I'm not sorry because I'm lying here dying. I hope you can find some comfort in that."

Neill said he was sorry for jeopardizing his salvation and repeatedly invoked the name of Jesus. As he made his last statement, Neill fought back tears and appeared distraught, at times saying he felt dizzy.

Factoid: In a separate trial, Robert Johnson was sentenced to life in prison.

In Oklahoma City, six people were arrested on misdemeanor civil disobedience complaints during a protest. Protester Wes Roberts said murder is the only crime that is duplicated by the state when an execution is carried out. "You don't rape a raper, rob a robber or mug a mugger," Roberts said. "That would be considered unconscionable."

Neill was the sixth person to be executed in Oklahoma this year and the 54th since the state resumed executions in 1990.