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Murderer, 74, Becomes Oldest Executed Since 1941

Supreme Court denies Alabama man's appeal, 5-4. He killed a woman in 1977 after doing time for a previous killing.

August 06, 2004|From Associated Press

ATMORE, Ala. — A 74-year-old murderer became the oldest U.S. inmate put to death in decades Thursday after courts and the governor refused to stop his execution.

James Barney Hubbard died by injection at 6:36 p.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore.

Hubbard was executed for the 1977 murder of Lillian Montgomery, 62, of Tuscaloosa.

She was shot in the head and robbed after befriend- ing Hubbard, who had been released from prison after serving 19 years for a 1957 kill- ing.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny a stay for Hubbard. His attorney contended the execution would amount to cruel and unusual punishment for someone so old and mentally incompetent.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley rejected a request to commute Hubbard's sentence for what he called a "heinous and violent" crime.

"Justice has not been swift in this case, but justice must be delivered," he said.

According to the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hubbard is the oldest person executed in the United States since the 1941 death of James Stephens, 76, of Colorado.

In his filing with the Supreme Court, defense lawyer Alan Rose said that although "Hubbard's age-based execution claim appears to raise a novel issue," it was in line with other claims of cruel and unusual punishment.

The state, in arguing for the execution, said that "murderers -- especially repeat killers like Hubbard -- do not deserve 'leniency' merely because their life of crime does not result in the imposition of a death sentence until later in life."

Hubbard, in his federal appeals, said he didn't speak up about his mental state and health sooner because the conditions didn't exist when he was younger. Court filings on his behalf said he had been diagnosed with dementia and other ailments.

Hubbard appealed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a stay.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas voted to deny the stay.

Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer would have granted it.

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