This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  December 16, 2005

Death penalty in U.S. reaches 1,000 executions

Raleigh, N.C.

The decision to proceed with the 1,000th execution in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977 fell to North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley, a Catholic. For the third time in less than a month, Easley refused to grant clemency to a death row inmate.

On Dec. 2, Kenneth Lee Boyd was executed by injection in Central Prison in Raleigh. Boyd was executed for the 1988 shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Julie Boyd, and her father, Dillard Curry, in Rockingham County.

In 1977, Gary Gilmore’s execution by a Utah firing squad ended a 10-year death penalty moratorium.

The 1,000th execution was covered throughout the world, but Boyd, a Vietnam veteran and father of four, told The Associated Press Nov. 30, “I’d hate to be remembered as that. I don’t like the idea of being picked as a number.”

Boyd had an IQ of 77 and suffered from alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the killings.

His lawyer, Thomas Maher, who witnessed the execution, spoke at a prayer service before the execution. Maher brought along a poster-size color photograph of Boyd in his army uniform. The poster sat on the altar, which included candles lit in memory of those executed and their victims.

Dominican Sr. Kitty Bethea and Rabbi Lucy Dinner officiated at the prayer service. “As long as there are people on death row we will struggle and continue to have hope that things can change,” Bethea said.

Just hours before Boyd’s 2 a.m. execution, 17 death penalty opponents, most donning sackcloth vests and carrying ashes, were arrested as they tried to enter the prison to stop the execution.

Easley has refused clemency in all but two cases during his five years in office. He has allowed 23 executions to proceed.

Patrick O’Neill is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.

National Catholic Reporter, December 16, 2005

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: