(Updates with execution)
By David Beasley
Dec 8 Alabama executed a former Eagle scout on
Thursday for a convenience store killing in 1994, the 20th
person executed in the United States this year and the second in
Ronald Smith, 45, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. (0505
GMT) at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, where he was
executed by lethal injection, a spokesman for the Alabama
Department of Corrections said.
Smith was executed after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a
second stay on the execution, having twice put it on hold on
Thursday. He was originally scheduled to die at 6 p.m. (midnight
The Supreme Court gave no explanation for any of its three
orders issued in the case on Thursday.
The Supreme Court granted a last-minute hold to stop Alabama
carrying out another man's death sentence a month ago. Justices
gave no reason for the stay in that case either.
Alabama's death penalty process is under scrutiny after the
high court ruled in January that a similar death penalty law in
Florida gave judges too much discretion.
Smith was convicted of murdering Casey Wilson, a
convenience store clerk in Huntsville, during a failed robbery.
The jury that convicted Smith recommended a sentence of life
in prison without parole. However, trial judge Lynwood Smith,
now a federal judge, imposed a death sentence, as allowed by
Trial testimony showed Smith had been an Eagle Scout and a
member of the National Honor Society, but struggled with
alcoholism as an adult.
In a Supreme Court appeal, Smith's attorneys argued that his
death sentence should be overturned.
They contended that Alabama's process was similar to
Florida's, struck down by the court this year. The justices
ruled that Florida judges were given powers that juries should
wield in deciding death penalty eligibility.
The U.S. Supreme Court has since ordered Alabama to review
similar practices in four other cases not involving Smith, court
documents show. Those reviews are pending.
Smith was the 20th person executed in the United States this
year and the second in Alabama, the non-profit Death Penalty
Information Center said.
Alabama contends its law is different from Florida's and
that the Supreme Court ruling in the Florida case was not
retroactive, applying to prior cases.
(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Additional reporting by
Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee;
Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Leslie Adler and Paul Tait)