ATMORE, Ala. -- Murderer John Louis Evans III laughed with his family Wednesday in a holding cell 25 feet from the Holman Prison death chamber and told a prison chaplain he was 'ready for death' Friday morning if the Supreme Court refuses to stay his execution.
'You'd never know he was subject to being executed in a matter of hours,' said prison spokesman Ron Tate.
Evans, 33, of Beaumont, Texas, is scheduled to die in the electric chair at 1:01 a.m. EST Friday. Early Wednesday, his attorneys asked Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell to block the execution, but there was no response from the high court Wednesday night.
Powell was asked to stay the execution until the court can consider Evans' claims that Alabama's death sentencing process is unreliable and unconstitutional.
Late Wednesday, Tate reported that prison chaplain Martin Weber told him Evans did not expect Powell to stay his execution.
'He is ready for death,' Tate quoted Weber as saying.
Evans would be the seventh man executed in the United States since the Supreme Court lifted the death penalty ban in 1976, and the first to die in Alabama in 18 years.
Evans was condemned to die for the 1977 slaying of Mobile pawnbroker Edward Nassar, who was shot in a holdup. Evans first said he wanted to die but changed his mind after U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist granted a stay in 1979.
Eddie Nassar, 73, father of Evans' victim, said Wednesday night that 'We gotta have laws. We have to follow the laws of God and we have to follow our laws. If they let him live, he's going to come back and kill.
'What do you do if a rat comes into your house? You kill him. I hate to feel that way but I do,' Nassar said.
Evans was moved from his death row cell to a special holding cell 25 feet from the death chamber at Holman Prison near Atmore. Tate said the rest of the inmates appeared unmoved over the situation.
'The mood is indifferent,' he said. 'It's like, 'I know you got problems, but I've got problems of my own.'
'They're aware of what's happening to John Louis Evans, but there have been no outbursts and there probaby won't be,' said Tate.
He said Evans was bearing up well.
'His face remains stone-faced,' Tate said. 'He shows very little emotion whatsoever. He's very calm, cool and collected.'
Tate said he saw Evans laughing with his mother, sister and brother in his cell. 'He didn't look like anyone likely to die in the electric chair anytime soon.
An hour before being strapped into the electric chair that prisoners call 'Yellow Momma,' Evans will be shaved bald. A black skull cap with a black shroud covering his face will be placed on his head.
He will order his last meal Thursday afternoon, selecting anything the prison has in stock.
State troopers had cordoned off an area roughly a mile around the south Alabama prison, which is isolated in an expanse of green fields planted with wheat, oats and rye grass.
Mounted troopers patrolled the area and a state helicopter flew low-level surveillance around the facility.
Holman is Alabama's only maximum security facility and houses all 59 of the state's condemned men.
There were no sign of demonstrators Wednesday, but the Alabama Prison Project, an anti-death penalty group, said it would conduct a candle-light vigil nearby -- although not within sight of the prison - beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick, in a brief filed before Justice Powell, said 'In spite of the fact that Evans is a cold-blooded murderer who has promised to kill again at the first opportunity, during the past six years our judicial system has indulged every legal nicety on his behalf, sometimes against his wishes.'
'The matter has run its course,' he said, 'and unless this court is willing to ban the death penalty or make it available by consent only, the last-minute stay application filed by Evans should be denied.'