Friday, November 07, 2003

November 7, 2003

An uneven keel...

Last Meal: Keel ordered a last meal of fried chicken breast and wing, a biscuit, seasoned rice and a diet Coke along with a T-bone steak without the bone, mushrooms and onions.

The skinny: Keel was put to death for killing his father-in-law, on July 10, 1990. Keel confessed to luring the man, with whom he lived, to an isolated area on an Edgecombe County hog farm where Keel worked. Keel shot the man in the head with a .22 caliber rifle and later told police a shot was fired from another car as it drove past.

In his last statement, Keel challenged the judge who presided over his trial for not telling jurors they could decide he acted in self-defense. He contended in his confession that he shot the man a second time after he came after for him with a knife.

Last words and such: A smiling Keel was rolled in the death chamber at 1:50 a.m., and he appeared to be happy. For 10 minutes the Tarboro native spoke words that could not be heard due to the two-inch glass separating the witness room and the death chamber. Seconds before 2 a.m. Keel said his final words, closed his eyes and never opened them again. Those final words--"I love you." to four of his friends sitting in front of the execution chamber witness room.

At his request, no one in Keel's family witnessed the execution.

Many Legal Machinations: Keel's lawyer had fought for clemency throughout the week. His legal team raised at least three legal issues, including their client, having an IQ of 70, was mentally retarded. Prosecutors disagreed and argued that Keel's IQ was 87.

Defense lawyer Jay Ferguson said Keel had the mental ability of a fifth-grader and suffered mental illness from an early age because his uncles plied him with alcohol. The defense also said Keel suffered brain injuries at birth as well as when he was later hit by a steel beam.

Keel had received two stays before he was executed.

LEGISLATIVE MACHINATIONS: At a rally at N.C. Central University, supporters of a death penalty moratorium called on the governor to stop executions. Speakers said a moratorium was needed while the fairness of North Carolina's death penalty was studied.

The state Senate approved a moratorium bill last year and the House is expected to consider it this session.

Factoids: Outside the prison, approximately 50 people stood protesting the execution while four stood on the opposite side of the road supporting it.

Two more executions are scheduled, and if all are carried out the total will be the highest since 1949, when 10 executions occurred.

Keel was the....
60th murderer executed in U.S. in 2003
880th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
5th murderer executed in North Carolina in 2003
28th murderer executed in North Carolina since 1976