Sunday, August 20, 2006

August 11, 2006

...our first Montana last meal...

Last Meal: Dawson had a final meal request of two double cheeseburgers, two large servings of French fries, a half a gallon of vanilla fudge ripple ice cream, and two bottles of Dr. Pepper.

The skinny: Dawson was executed for killing three members of a Billings family in 1986.

More skinny: Dawson was the first person executed in Montana since 1998.

The parents, along with their 11-year old and 15-year old daughter , checked into the Airport Metra Inn at Billings, preparing to move from the area to Atlanta, where the father was to begin a new job.

Dawson checked into the room next door and later forced his way in at gunppoint, forced the family into his room, then robbed them after binding them with tape and gagging them. The parents and the son were found 2 days later strangled to death with a telephone cord in the motel room. Only the family’s teenaged daughter survived. She was rescued by Billings police officers, who arrested Dawson and found the bodies of her family. The girl survived the attack and testified at trial.

The Trial...Dawson did not take the stand during his trial. He did not mount much of a defense and nothing in his past or his demeanor, at trial or since, suggested Dawson was a violent man.

Several things made the case stand out. It was the first time local law enforcement encountered the extreme effects of methamphetamine use. Dawson, it turned out, was addicted to the drug, and he didn't sleep from the time he abducted the the family until his arrest nearly 48 hours later.

Prosecutors never charged Dawson with a sex crime, but evidence suggested he may have planned to sexually abuse his victims. Sexual paraphernalia was found in Dawson's duffel bag when he was arrested.

The Volunteer..Dawson, 48, is what death penalty expert David Baldus refers to as a “volunteer,” one of a small number of condemned inmates who willingly end court battles aimed at keeping them alive. Just 12 percent of those who’ve been executed in the United States since 1976 have abandoned their appeals. The figure is as of April 1. Baldus, a law professor at the University of Iowa, cites three reasons inmates on death row might “volunteer” to die: despair, loss of interest in living, remorse.

Last Day...Prison officials said there should be little difference between Dawson’s last day on Cell Block D and all the ones before it. Head count is set for 6 a.m.; breakfast — served through a slot in the cell door — within the hour; a shower or time alone in the prison “day room,” which is a place to punch bags or play games. He will be allowed to talk with other inmates as usual. Such communication often occurs through vents, Chladek said. Dawson speaks frequently with Ron Smith, also on death row, the prison official said. Dawson also watches television, works out and listens to music in a cell that Chladek describes as meticulously kept up.

Last words and such: When asked by Warden Mike Mahoney if he had any last words, Dawson gave a one-word reply: “No.” He was pronounced dead six minutes later.

Factoids: Dawson was the...

35th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1039th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Montana in 2006
3rd murderer executed in Montana since 1976

As a nearly full moon rose over the low hills surrounding the prison, and heat lightning struck in the darkening sky, members of the groups held a vigil on the windswept prairie. Two people who support the death penalty lingered nearby.

Four prisoners are on Death Row. All of them are convicted for complicated murders. Montana Legislature has drafted a very tight circumstances that you can have before you have a death penalty. Those circumstances are: killing a member of Montana Corrections (a parole officer or a guard); killing another person while awaiting sentencing for a first murder; killing more than one person; raping and killing someone; killing a kidnapping victim; or, torturing and killing someone.