Thursday, February 27, 2003By RON WORD, Associated Press
King, 48, was condemned for the 1977 killing of Natalie Brady, 68, who lived near a Tarpon Springs corrections center where King was a work-release inmate. He then set fire to her home.
Peggy Scheerer holds a photo of her aunt, Natalie Brady, Wednesday, outside the Florida State Prison in Starke, minutes after Amos King was put to death by lethal injection. King, 48, was condemned for the 1977 killing of Brady, 68, who lived near a Tarpon Springs corrections center where King was a work-release inmate. He then set fire to her home. Oscar Sosa/AP
"I would like the governor and the family to know I am an innocent man and the state had evidence to that effect," King said Wednesday on his death gurney. "I'm sorry for the victim's family, for all the things we have gone through."
King was caught trying to sneak back into the prison at about the same time firefighters and police arrived at Brady's home, according to court records. He fought with a counselor, James McDonough, who was stabbed 15 times with a knife that witnesses said apparently came from Brady's kitchen.
Two of Brady's nieces, Monica Watson and Peggy Scheerer, were crying in the front row as King gave his final statement and thanked his attorney, Peter Cannon. King continued talking after his microphone was turned off, but the audience could only see his mouth move.
Both Watson and Scheerer, who held a picture of Natalie Brady, said they prayed for King and his lawyer.
"This has been an emotional roller coaster for our family for many years and now maybe we can have some closure," Watson said.
The execution had been set for 6 p.m., but delayed by last minute appeals, said Liz Hirst, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected King's last appeal at 6:30 p.m. A flurry of appeals was also filed in the Florida Supreme Court, with the last motion arriving after 6 p.m. The state high court, which had rejected an appeal from King late Monday, didn't rule on the new appeals before his execution.
The 30 witnesses and corrections officials waited silently in the witness room outside the death chamber for more than 30 minutes, unaware of what was causing the delay. Most people stared straight ahead at the closed brown curtains or frequently checked their watches as the minutes dragged by.
When the curtain was opened, King strapped to a gurney, lifted his head and turned and looked at the witnesses, acknowledging Cannon and Buddhist priest Kevin Malone, who spent much of King's final day with him.
After the execution, Malone criticized the state.
"Twenty-six years after the event, they are still trying to make the determination (of his guilt). What is wrong with this picture?" Malone asked.
"Every man, woman and child in Florida has blood on their hands," he said.
King also lost recent filings in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and in federal court in Tampa.
King contended in a Tuesday prison interview that he was the victim of racism, circumstances, perjured testimony, and ignored and lost evidence. He maintained his innocence in Brady's murder, saying, "I am not confessing to anything I did not do."
King had survived six execution attempts by three governors.
Gov. Bob Graham signed King's first warrant in 1981, followed by Gov. Bob Martinez in 1988. King also survived four execution dates last year on a warrant signed by Bush. His final execution was scheduled after DNA tests on evidence were inconclusive.
It was the 55th Florida execution since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The last one was on Dec. 9, when Linroy Bottoson was executed for murdering Catherine Alexander, the postmistress in the historic black community of Eatonville north of Orlando.