“God bless everybody in here” were the last words of Kenneth Lee Boyd to witnesses separated from his death chamber by a glass partition. The double murderer became the 1,000th prisoner to be executed in the United States since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976 after a nine-year moratorium. About 100 death penalty opponents gathered overnight outside his prison in Raleigh, North Carolina.
They held candles and read the names of the other 999 convicts who have been put to death. Sixteen were reportedly arrested when they tried to enter the facility. Boyd’s last chance of a reprieve ran out when state governor Mike Easley said he saw no compelling reason to grant clemency. The 57-year-old Vietnam war veteran with a history of alcohol abuse was executed by lethal injection.
His daughter-in-law Kathy Smith was near him when he died. She later said:“I saw a very kind man with a good heart. He would have given the shirt off his back to anybody who needed it.” Boyd spent 11 years on death row after being convicted of shooting dead his estranged wife and her father.
The death penalty is supported by a clear majority of Americans, but the number of executions has fallen sharply in recent years; there were 59 last year. The European Union condemned the execution and called for the end of the death penalty worldwide. In a statement issued by EU president Britain, the bloc said: “We consider this punishment cruel and inhuman. It does not act as a deterrent and any miscarriage of justice, which is inevitable in any legal system, is irreversible.”