By Lucas L. Johnson II
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE —; Tennessee officials were preparing today to carry out the state’s second execution in 45 years, that of a man convicted of raping and killing a jogger.
The state had planned two, back-to-back executions by lethal injection early Wednesday, but a federal judge issued a stay today for the second condemned man.
Judge Todd Campbell halted the execution of Paul Dennis Reid and ordered a hearing on whether the inmate is mentally competent to stop appealing his seven death sentences for a string of 1997 murders. The state was preparing to appeal the order, the spokeswoman for the attorney general said.
Reid, who doctors have testified is brain damaged and mentally ill, had dropped his appeals earlier this year, and the state Supreme Court rejected efforts by his defense team and his sister to continue fighting his execution without his cooperation.
Reid was in a similar situation in 2003 and came within hours of execution before he was talked into resuming his appeals and got a stay.
Reid and convicted murderer Sedley Alley had both been on death watch at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
Although Alley has exhausted his basic appeals before state and federal courts, his defense team continued fighting the execution Tuesday with petitions challenging Tennessee’s methods for lethal injection and seeking DNA testing on crime-scene evidence.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on today refused to block Alley’s execution on his argument that DNA testing could prove his innocence. The refusal let stand lower court rulings that Alley was trying to reopen his murder investigation to delay his execution.
In his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Alley’s team said Tennessee courts do not understand DNA testing and allowing his execution would be “a huge setback for our system of justice.”
“While there is an ongoing debate whether the innocent are being executed in this nation, there is no debate that DNA testing can —; and does —; avoid the incarceration and execution of the innocent,” his petition for review says.
Alley, 50, confessed to killing Suzanne Collins, a 19-year-old Marine, while she jogged near a Navy base north of Memphis in 1985. Alley beat her and then killed her by sexually assaulting her with a sharpened tree limb.
At trial Alley claimed to have multiple personalities, but since 2004 he has recanted his confession and argued he is innocent.
Alley was scheduled to die on May 17 but got a reprieve from Gov. Phil Bredesen to seek court permission for the DNA testing. But his defense team, led by Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, has failed to persuade the state courts to release crime-scene evidence for testing.
Alley was convicted and condemned to death by a Memphis jury before DNA testing was common in criminal investigations.
Reid, 48, a former Texas drifter with music ambitions, was convicted of murdering seven people at three Tennessee restaurants in 1997 after he was fired from his job as a dishwasher at Shoney’s.
Sarah Jackson, 16, and Steve Hampton, 25, were slain execution-style at a Captain D’s not far from where Reid worked. The next month Ronald Santiago, 27, Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23, and Andrea Brown, 17, were killed in a midnight robbery at a McDonald’s a few miles from the Captain D’s.
Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16, who were kidnapped in an April 1997 robbery at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store in Clarksville, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Their throats were slashed and their bodies were dumped at Dunbar Cave State Natural Area.
Family members of some of the victims attended today’s hearing and were not pleased with Campbell’s decision.
“There’s no way for me to describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Kim Campbell, Holmes’ mother. “Nobody let her (Angela) argue that she had a right to life.”
Reid has told reporters and his legal team that he is being controlled, monitored and tormented by a military government. His lawyers say he has quit cooperating with them because he thinks they are part of the effort to harm him.
In the motion that was before Campbell, Dr. George Woods, a neuropsychiatrist, said Reid suffers from “a neurological disorder” and that his “left temporal lobe is dysfunctional,” which causes him to be schizophrenic.
Woods said Reid’s condition “precludes him from either understanding his position or appreciating the legal options available to him.”
The last Tennessee inmate executed was convicted child rapist and murderer Robert Glenn Coe, put to death by lethal injection in 2000. Before that, the last execution was by electric chair in 1960.
Tennessee has 108 inmates on death row.
See tomorrow’s Times Free Press for more coverage.