By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
A Missouri man who killed a couple during a robbery in their rural home more than a quarter century ago was put to death on Tuesday, becoming the fifth person executed in the United States this year.
Carman Deck, 56, died by injection at Bonne Terre State Prison. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. His fate was sealed the day before when neither the United States Supreme Court nor Republican Governor Mike Parson intervened to stop the execution. Deck’s death sentence has been overturned three times previously over procedural issues.
Deck said a few inaudible words as the 5 grams of pentobarbital was administered, then exhaled a few breaths before all movement stopped, the process lasting only a few seconds.
“My hope is that one day the world will find peace and that we will all learn to be kind and loving to one another,” Deck said in a written closing statement. “We are all part of this journey through life, connected in every way. Please give love, show love, BE LOVE!
Parson, in a statement, said the slain couple, James and Zelma Long, “were innocent victims of Carman Deck’s heinous violence. Tonight, justice was served.
Only four other people have been executed in the US in 2022 – Donald Anthony Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle in Oklahoma, Matthew Reeves in Alabama and Carl Wayne Buntio last month in Texas. Eleven people were executed in the United States last year, the fewest since 1988.
Court records show that St. Louis-area Deck was a friend of the Longs’ grandson, who lived in De Soto, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis. He knew the couple, in their late 60s, kept a safe in their home.
In July 1996, Deck and his sister stopped by the house under the guise of asking for directions. Deck wasn’t surprised the couple let them in.
“They’re country people,” Deck told a detective, according to court records. “They always do.”
Once inside, Deck pulled a gun from his belt. At Deck’s command, Zelma Long opened the safe and removed jewelry, then obtained $200 from her purse and more cash hidden in a cartridge.
Deck ordered the couple to lie face down on their bed. Court records indicate that Deck stood there for 10 minutes to decide what to do, then shot James Long twice in the head before doing the same to Zelma Long.
A tip alerted the police on Deck, and he was arrested later that night outside his sister’s apartment building in St. Louis County. Long’s decorative tin can was on the floor of his car.
Prosecutors said Deck later gave a full account of the murders in oral, written and audiotaped statements. He was sentenced to death in 1998, but the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the sentence due to errors made by Deck’s trial attorney.
The United States Supreme Court overturned his second sentence in 2005, citing harm caused by Deck being shackled before the sentencing jury.
He was sentenced to death for the third time in 2008. Nine years later, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry determined that “substantial” evidence arguing against the death penalty in Deck’s first two sentencing phases does not were not available for the third because witnesses had died, could not. not be found or refuse to cooperate.
In October 2020, a three-judge panel of the 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the death penalty, ruling that Deck should have raised his concern in state court first, and not in federal court. Appeals of this decision were unsuccessful.
The clemency petition on Deck’s behalf cited abuse he suffered as a child, including beatings that left scars and sexual abuse. He said he and his siblings were often left alone without food. Deck’s attorney, Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, said in a statement that Deck was also raped in prison for theft when she was 19.
“That experience transformed him from a non-violent thief into the person who committed two terrible murders,” Carlyle said. She called his execution “unjust and immoral”.
The number of executions in the United States has fallen significantly since peaking at 98 in 1998. This decline has coincided with a decline in support, from a peak of 80% in 1994 to 54% in 2021 according to Gallup polls. Since the mid-1990s, opposition has risen from less than 20% to around 45%.
Use of the death penalty has been concentrated primarily in a few Southern and Plains states. Last year, Texas executed three inmates, Oklahoma executed two, and one each was put to death in Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri. Three federal inmates were executed in January 2021, near the end of President Donald Trump’s administration.
On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee suspended executions in his state for the rest of the year to allow for a review of lethal injection procedures after a test oversight forced the state to cancel the execution of Oscar Smith an hour before he died on April 21.
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