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Date published: 1/17/2013
JARRATT--A man who strangled his prison cellmate and made good on a vow to continue killing if he wasn't executed was put to death Wednesday in Virginia's electric chair.
Robert Gleason Jr., 42, was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center. He became the first inmate executed in the United States this year and the first to choose death by electrocution since 2010. In Virginia and nine other states, death row inmates are allowed to choose between electrocution and lethal injection.
Gleason had fought last-minute attempts by former attorneys to block the scheduled execution. The lawyers had argued that he was not competent to waive his appeals and that more than a year spent in solitary confinement on death row had exacerbated his condition. Two mental health evaluations done before Gleason was sentenced in 2011 said he was depressed and impulsive but competent to make decisions in his case.
Late Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay.
Before being lowered into the chair, Gleason winked into the witness booth. Then he sat calmly while six members of the execution team strapped him in.
"Can they hear me out there?" Gleason asked. He had some brief words before ending with an Irish expletive and concluding: "God bless."
Then, after a metal helmet was placed on his head and a clamp on his right calf, his face was covered with a leather strap with a triangle cut out for the nose. He made a thumbs-up with his right hand for several seconds. Then, his body tensed as he was given two 90-second cycles of electric current before being pronounced dead.
Gleason was serving life in prison for the 2007 fatal shooting of a man when he became frustrated with prison officials because they wouldn't move out his new, mentally disturbed cellmate. Gleason hogtied, beat and strangled 63-year-old Harvey Watson Jr. in May 2009 and remained with the inmate's body for more than 15 hours before the crime was discovered.
"Someone needs to stop it," he told The Associated Press after Watson's death. "The only way to stop me is put me on death row."