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Law

Ohio murderer, struggling to the end, is executed

College student Brian DeRouen, who opposes the death penalty, sits outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Wednesday following Alex Williamsí execution.
College student Brian DeRouen, who opposes the death penalty, sits outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Wednesday following Alex Williamsí execution.

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CINCINNATI, Ohio (Reuters) -- A 45-year-old condemned man, struggling and yelling "please God, help me," had to be carried into the execution chamber by six guards before being put to death Wednesday for the 1983 murder of an elderly woman, prison officials said.

Lewis Williams, Jr., was given a lethal injection at 10:15 a.m. ET at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio, for killing Leoma Chmielewski, 76.

"Please God, help me. God, please help. Please hear my cry," Williams shouted as he was strapped onto a gurney to receive the lethal injection, prison spokeswoman Andrea Dean said.

His mother, Bonnie Williams, witnessed her son's struggle and was taken out in a wheelchair afterward.

Throughout his two decades on death row, Williams claimed innocence, arguing prosecutors used trumped-up evidence and coerced witnesses, including testimony from two inmates who testified he confessed while in jail awaiting trial.

Witnesses testified Williams was at Chmielewski's home the night she was shot, and police found gunshot residue on his clothing and his shoe print on the hem of her dress. A trail of coins and the woman's empty pay envelopes were found nearby.

Williams had lived across the street from Chmielewski, who was known in her Cleveland neighborhood for holding several jobs to help support family members.

Williams claimed he had left the victim's house before she was killed.

In his appeals, Williams argued his defense attorneys were inept because they presented little evidence to persuade the jury that he deserved mercy because he had been abused and became a cocaine user by age 13.

His scheduled June 2002 execution was stayed by a judge to evaluate whether Williams was retarded, which would have commuted his death sentence. Experts hired by his attorneys determined he was not retarded and Williams fired his lawyers.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his final appeal, which argued that execution by lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional.

Several death row inmates have lodged appeals based on disputed evidence that the lethal cocktail of drugs immobilizes the condemned but does not spare suffering. A federal appeals court recently stayed the execution of a Virginia inmate on those grounds.

Williams was the ninth person executed in Ohio since 1999, when the state resumed executions after a 36-year hiatus. He was the fifth person to be executed this year in the United States, and the 890th since the nation resumed the death penalty in 1976.

For his final meal, Williams chose the prison's regular dinner of smoked sausage, rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens and vanilla pudding.



Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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