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Killer Executed at San Quentin

Crime: Stephen Wayne Anderson spent 20 years on death row for shooting an 81-year-old woman during burglary.

January 29, 2002|SCOTT GOLD and JOHN M. GLIONNA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SAN QUENTIN -- Stephen Wayne Anderson was executed by lethal injection early this morning, two decades after he went to death row for shooting a San Bernardino County grandmother and then, authorities said, cooking noodles in her kitchen while she died.

Around midnight--after federal judges were unswayed by a desperate campaign for a reprieve--Anderson, 48, was dressed in new denim pants and a blue work shirt and led into the San Quentin State Prison death chamber.

Anderson, a small-time burglar who confessed to murdering 81-year-old Elizabeth Lyman during a botched robbery in 1980, had been given a choice between the gas chamber and lethal injection, and picked the latter: a cocktail of sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Authorities locked down the prison hours earlier as part of an extraordinary security routine reserved for execution nights.

His last meal consisted of two grilled cheese sandwiches, a pint of cottage cheese, radishes, hominy grits, a slice of peach pie and a pint of chocolate chip ice cream.

While many condemned inmates surround themselves with relatives and supporters as their execution nears, Anderson had no visitors for the last three days and did not consult with spiritual advisors, though they were available to him.

Anderson's attorneys said his body will be cremated and his ashes sent to a friend in Farmington, N.M.--the town where he grew up, suffered through an abusive childhood, was cast out of his house by his father and began a life of petty crime that would soon mushroom out of control.

A few dozen protesters, representing the nation's deep division over the use of execution as a punishment or deterrent for crime, gathered outside the main gate of California's oldest correctional institution, north of San Francisco.

On a night when temperatures dipped to near freezing, they ranged from college-age to retirees and held signs that read: "Don't kill for me" and "Not in my name."

Earlier in the day, members of L.A. Catholic Worker held a vigil outside the Criminal Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. And Father Bob Jones, of St. Camillus Pastoral Care Center, offered his regularly scheduled noon Mass for the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Lyman.

"In our prayers we ask God to bless the citizens of California; for what is being done in our name, to pardon us," Jones said.

Anderson was the 10th man executed by California since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1978 and the first since double-murderer Robert Lee Massie was executed last March.

Unlike Massie, who had not exhausted his appeals and bitterly chose the death penalty over a lifetime behind bars, Anderson was "not a volunteer," one of his attorneys, Margo Rocconi, said in an interview last week. Instead, attorneys, friends and other supporters had made him the subject of legal disputes and political intrigue--which continued late into the day Monday.

His attorneys, for instance, filed a lawsuit demanding that Gov. Gray Davis recuse himself from Anderson's clemency petition, arguing that the governor has never granted clemency to a murderer--and has suggested that he never will. After denying clemency to three previous killers in the last three years, Davis threw out Anderson's petition on Saturday. Anderson's final appeals on that point were denied by federal judges late Monday.

Lyman's survivors joined calls for clemency, arguing in court documents that they did not want--or need--Anderson to die for his crimes.

Anderson's legal team also argued that he received poor legal representation during his trial. He was defended by S. Donald Ames, a San Bernardino County attorney whose bumbling trial work forced courts to throw out two other killers' death sentences.

For example, Ames, who died two years ago, claimed Anderson had prohibited him from calling witnesses. But federal judges investigating the case found later that Ames' own notes indicated that Anderson had provided a sizable list of potential witnesses.

Anderson's attorneys also said the jury was not allowed to delve into Anderson's youth, during which he was abused by his parents, disowned at 17 and forced to live outdoors in the hills surrounding his New Mexico home. He began robbing churches and schools to get food and money.

By 1980, Anderson, then a drifter who had been arrested for several break-ins and had escaped from a Utah work furlough program, landed in Bloomington, a small, unincorporated town near Fontana. On Memorial Day, he broke into the home of Lyman, a retired piano teacher.

Anderson had thought Lyman was not home, but when she rose from her bed, Anderson panicked and shot her in the face with a .45-caliber handgun. Prosecutors said he then prepared himself noodles in Lyman's kitchenDefense attorneys suggested Lyman had prepared the noodles herself before she was killed, and said overzealous prosecutors seized on details like that to make sure Anderson would be executed.

Times staff writer Liz F. Kay contributed from Los Angeles and correspondent Daniel Hernandez contributed from San Quentin.

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