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South Carolina Executes Killer Convicted at 17

January 11, 1986|Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — James Terry Roach was executed Friday for two murders he committed at the age of 17, despite pleas for clemency by Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter and other international figures.

"I pray that my fate will someday save another kid that ends up on the wrong side of the tracks," Roach, 25, said in his final statement after being strapped in the state's electric chair at 5 a.m.

Roach, the first juvenile offender to be executed involuntarily since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976, seemed comforted by assurances that his case had focused attention on the issue of capital punishment for juvenile crimes, said his attorney, David Bruck.

"I told him that the tremendous attention the last few days that suddenly and at last has been paid to his case would help (others like him), and he came back to that and asked several times if . . . I really thought that was true," Bruck said. "He seemed to draw some comfort when we told him that we really did think that."

Roach, of Seneca, pleaded guilty in October, 1977, to killing Tommy Taylor, 17, and Carlotta Hartness, 14, who were attacked as they sat in a car parked near their high school. Taylor was shot in the face, and Hartness was taken to nearby woods, raped, shot in the back of the head and mutilated.

Joseph Carl Shaw, a co-defendant, was executed for the same crime Jan. 11, 1984. Roach claimed that Shaw was the triggerman.

Roach's attorneys argued that his life should be spared because he suffered from Huntington's chorea, a mentally debilitating disease.

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