Tuesday, May 06, 2003

May 6, 2003

A long time comin'...

Last Meal: Isaacs had ordered a last meal of pork and macaroni, pinto beans, sauteed cabbage, carrot salad, dinner roll, chocolate cake and fruit punch. But, he refused it.

The skinny: Isaacs was executed for orchestrating the slaying of six members of a farm family during a burglary. It was once described as the most gruesome in the state's history. Isaacs, 49, spent more time on death row than any other person in the United States At the time of the murders, Isaacs was on the run after having escaped from a minimum-security prison camp in Maryland. The crime triggered a national manhunt for the killers. Isaacs, his younger brother Billy, half brother Wayne Coleman and George Dungee, were arrested for the crime one week later in West Virginia. Days after the capture of the four men, the brother of the victim's was approached with an offer of vigilante justice by the outraged residents of the community.

The Supremes: The Supreme Court refused to grant a last-minute stay, although Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer said the court should have agreed to consider Isaacs' claim that it was unconstitutional to execute him after his long imprisonment. Justice Clarence Thomas, a native of Georgia, did not participate.

Aftermath: The killings prompted legislation that requires victims' families to be notified of developments in death penalty cases and inspired the 1988 movie "Murder One," starring James Wilder as Isaacs. The killings also prompted more residents to buy guns.

Final Days and such: Isaacs, through his lawyer, offered remorse for the killings, saying he was not the same hotheaded person who committed the crime at 19.

The Alday family was unmoved, citing Isaacs' own boastful words in a series of 1975 prison interviews.

"I'd like to get out and kill more of them," he said at the time. "They represent the type of society I don't like. I didn't know them, had never seen them before May 14, but I didn't like them. Working people don't do a damn thing for me." Isaacs, during the interviews, compared himself to notorious 1930s outlaw John Dillinger.

Final Words and such: Isaacs suffered from cancer and wore a colostomy bag into the death chamber. Isaacs declined an opportunity to make a final statement, but did ask for a final prayer. After the prayer he mouthed Amen.

Factoids: Two other men are serving life sentences for the murders. A third was released from prison in 1993.

It was the first time in state history that Georgia officials allowed members of the victims family to witness the execution.