A murderer who was once a voodoo priest died of a lethal injection in Texas Tuesday uttering the words 'Hare Krishna,' three hours after another killer was put to death in Arkansas for the worst U.S. mass slaying of a family.
James Edward Smith, 37, was pronounced dead from the injection given at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, at 12:31 a.m., minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court denied two motions to delay the execution.
Ronald Gene Simmons, 49, was put to death by lethal injection at Cummins Prison in Pine Bluff, Ark. at 9:19 p.m.Monday becoming the 131st person executed since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Smith was the 132nd.
Smith ended his final statement in which he denied guilt with a wink, a smile and the Krishna blessing before the drugs were administered at 12:19 a.m.
'I've already spoken the truth but because it was spoken by someone accused, the truth was not respected,' Smith said as thunder rumbled outside the prison. 'It must come from the man who spoke the lie.
'I am not the killer. I myself did not kill anyone. I go to my death without begging for my life. I will not humiliate myself. I will let no man break me. It just can't be done.
'There is a price to be paid. I want the people to wake up to the reality of executions. The price to be paid will be a dear one.'
Smith, whose last meal consisted of plain yogurt, said he wrote his last statement for all death row inmates upon the request of the editor of the prison newsletter.
He was convicted of killing Missouri City insurance agent Larry Rohus, 44, who turned over his money and begged for his life during a 1983 robbery at the Union National Life Insurance Co. in Houston.
A former Hare Krishna follower who also claims to be a former voodoo priest, Smith two years ago asked prison officials for dirt to enable him to perform a voodoo ritual marking of his body which would assist what he believed would be his reincarnation.
Smith had refused to allow appeals to be filed on his behalf, contending that continued incarceration was cruel and unusual punishment because he would be reincarnated after execution.
But his mother appealed his conviction and questioned his mental competence to decide his own fate. The Supreme Court denied the appeals minutes before the execution.
Simmons of Dover, Ark., killed 14 members of his family and two other people in a 1987 Christmas holiday murder binge set off when his daughter broke of an incestuous relationship with him.
'Justice delayed finally be done is justifiable homicide,' Simmons said just before prison officials inserted the needle for the lethal injection. He was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.
Simmons's body had not been claimed hours after the execution and if it remained unclaimed the killer would be buried in a pauper's grave in Star City, Ark.
His death was the second execution in a week in Arkansas.
Prosecuting attorney John Bynum said he thought Simmons's primary motive was to kill his daughter, Sheila McNulty, 24, of Camden, and her husband Dennis, 33.
'He had some grievances with some of these other people and some ill feelings,' Bynum said, 'but in my opinion, the true motive ... was basically so that he could kill Dennis and Sheila, and he had to kill all these people in preparation for Dennis and Sheila.'
Bynum said he believed Simmons killed the members of his family from Dec. 22-26, 1987, then stayed in the house two nights with some of the victims before driving into nearby Russellville on Dec. 28, where he killed two more people and wounded four others before surrendering, saying he had 'gotten everyone who had hurt' him.
'The things that stood out the most were the whites of his eyes and the whites of his teeth,' said Julie Money, one of those wounded in Russellville. 'He looked like a mad dog staring at me. The gun looked like a cannon.'