Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Not Last meal in 'Bama...

Supreme Court halts execution

Three-time killer David Larry Nelson ate his last meal and came within 2½ hours of death Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted his execution.

The 58-year-old Nelson, a 25-year resident on Alabama's Death Row, was to be executed for the 1978 New Year's Day slaying of Wilson Woodrow Thompson.

Nelson's attorneys filed papers for an appeal to the court early Thursday saying Nelson has collapsed veins and that lethal injection would be so painful it would be "cruel and unusual punishment."

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated by former President Ronald Reagan, referred Nelson's request for a stay to the full court. The court's three-sentence order does not give an explanation for the reprieve, only that it will remain in effect until Nelson's appeal is considered.

If Nelson's appeal is denied, the stay automatically ends.

Prison officials said had the execution proceeded they would have first sought veins in both of Nelson's arms. If that failed, they would have tried veins in the neck and the leg before using a surgical procedure to make an incision cutting through skin tissue, fat and muscle to get directly to the vein.

Nelson on Thursday had already polished off his last meal of a fried bologna sandwich with lettuce and tomato, french fries and a sprite. and was visiting with family and friends when Atlanta lawyer Victoria Smith walked into the room and said, "Give me a hug. You got a stay."


In the 1978 killing, Nelson and his girlfriend, Linda Vice, met Thompson at a Birmingham lounge and went to Thompson's mobile home in Kimberly about 1:30 a.m. Nelson ordered his girlfriend to take off her clothes and then told Thompson he could perform oral sex on her. When he did, court records show, Nelson opened fire. The bullet passed through Thompson's neck and wounded Vice in her upper thigh.

Nelson shot his girlfriend two more times, but she survived.

Just hours before Thompson's slaying, Nelson shot and killed cab driver James Dewey Cash, whom he and Vice had met at a different lounge. Nelson was convicted in that slaying as well and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1971, Nelson was convicted of beating to death 82-year-old Oliver King in a Birmingham parking deck. He spent three years in prison for that killing.

Nelson once told a jury and a judge that he wanted to be executed. But when he was scheduled for execution in 1996, he received a stay because of a physician's statement that he could be a kidney donor for a seriously ill brother. The operation did not take place.