JACKSON, Ga. -- Joseph Mulligan, protesting his innocence and blaming his lawyers for 'letting me down,' died in the electric chair - the first execution since last month's major Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty.
The 35-year-old man was pronounced dead Friday at 7:25 p.m. EDT, 2 hours after the Supreme Court, on a 7-2 vote, rejected for the third time his plea for a stay.
Mulligan, convicted of killing his brother-in-law and a woman to collect life insurance, was the first to be executed since the Supreme Court ruled last month in a different Geoorgia case that the death penalty is not racially discriminatory.
Mulligan and his victims were black.
Mulligan was the 71st person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in 1976, and the eighth in Georgia. A handful of protesters sang hymns outside the Jackson Diagnostic and Classification Center south of Atlanta as Mulligan died. Thirteen people were arrested earlier in Atlanta when they blocked the entrance to the office building housing the parole board.
Mulligan, from Beaufort, S.C., was convicted of double murder in the 1974 killing of his brother-in-law, Army Capt. Patrick Doe, and 25-year-old Marion Miller, Doe's girlfriend. Doe and Mulligan's sister were seeking a divorce at the time, and prosecutors said the murders were part of a scheme for Mulligan's sister to collect on Doe's life insurance before the divorce.
The state Supreme Court reduced Mulligan's death sentence in the killing of his brother-in-law to life in prison, so he was executed only for the murder of Miller.
After he was placed in the death chair Mulligan made a long statement, only portions of which could be heard through the glass partition separating the death chamber from the witness room.
'This has nothing to do with right or wrong,' he said. 'I am innocent. You are killing an innocent man. I have tried to tell you over and over.'
He said his lawyers were 'letting me down' and said, 'I'm not going to be around to stand up for myself, but I hope somebody else stands up and I hope you know that Georgia's death penalty law is wrong - it's wrong.'