ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate convicted of killing a man during a 1993 robbery when he was a teenager was executed Thursday by lethal injection.
Casey McWhorter, 49, was pronounced dead at 6:56 p.m. at a southwest Alabama prison, authorities said. McWhorter was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for his role in the robbery and shooting death of Edward Lee Williams, 34, on Feb. 18, 1993.
Prosecutors said McWhorter, who was three months past his 18th birthday at the time of the killing, conspired with two younger teenagers, including Williams’ 15-year-old son, to steal money and other items from Williams’ home and then kill him. The jury that convicted McWhorter recommended a death sentence by a vote of 10-2, which a judge, who had the final decision, imposed, according to court records. The younger teens — Edward Lee Williams Jr. and Daniel Miner, who was 16 — were sentenced to life in prison, according to court records.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that we had to wait so long for justice to be served, but it’s been served,” the victim’s brother, Bert Williams, told reporters after the execution. He added that the lethal injection provided McWhorter a peaceful death unlike the violent end his brother endured.
Prison officials opened the curtain to the execution chamber at 6:30 p.m. McWhorter, who was strapped to the gurney with the intravenous lines already attached, moved slightly at the beginning of the procedure, rubbing his fingers together, but his breathing slowed until it was no longer visible.
“I would like to say I love my mother and family,” McWhorter said in his final words. “I would like to say to the victim’s family I’m sorry. I hope you find peace.”
McWhorter also used his final words to take an apparent verbal jab at his executioner, the prison warden who faced domestic violence accusations decades ago, saying that, “it’s not lost on me that a habitual abuser of women is carrying out this procedure.”
Prosecutors said McWhorter and Miner went to the Williamses’ home with rifles and fashioned homemade silencers from a pillow and a milk jug. When the older Williams arrived home and discovered the teens, he grabbed the rifle held by Miner. They began to struggle over it, and McWhorter fired the first shot at Williams, according to a summary of the crime in court filings. Williams was shot a total of 11 times.
April Williams, the victim’s daughter, said her father today should be spending time with his grandchildren and enjoying retirement.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and how I miss him,” April Williams said in a statement read by Corrections Commissioner John Q. Hamm. “Casey McWhorter had several hours in that house to change his mind from taking the life of my Dad.”
Defense attorneys had unsuccessfully sought a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, citing McWhorter’s age at the time of the crime. They argued the death sentence was unconstitutional because Alabama law does not consider a person to be a legal adult until age 19.
McWhorter, who called himself a “confused kid” at the time of the slaying, said he would encourage young people going through difficult times to take a moment before making a life-altering mistake like he did.
“Anything that comes across them that just doesn’t sit well at first, take a few seconds to think that through,” he told The Associated Press in an interview last week. “Because one bad choice, one stupid mistake, one dumb decision can alter your life — and those that you care about — forever.” McWhorter maintained that he did not intend to kill Williams. Attorney General Steve Marshall said as Williams was on the ground wounded that McWhorter shot him in the head.
McWhorter spent nearly 30 years on Alabama’s death row, making him among the longest-serving inmates of the state’s 165 death row inmates.
“Edward Lee Williams’ life was taken away from him at the hands of Casey A. McWhorter, and tonight, Mr. McWhorter answered for his actions,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.
The Rev. Jeff Hood, a death row minister who works with an anti-death penalty group, accompanied McWhorter into the execution chamber as his spiritual adviser. “It is not lost on me that he was a murderer and so are all Alabamians tonight. I pray that we will all learn to stop killing each other,” Hood said in a statement.
The Alabama execution occurred the same night that Texas executed a man convicted of strangling a 5-year-old girl who was taken from a Walmart store nearly 22 years ago.
McWhorter was the second inmate put to death this year in Alabama after the state paused executions for several months to review procedures following a series of failed or problematic executions. James Barber, 64, was executed by lethal injection in July for the 2001 beating death of a woman.
Alabama plans in January to make the nation’s first attempt to put an inmate to death using nitrogen gas. Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized as an execution method in Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi, but no state has used it.