Man put to death by lethal injection for 1991 murder of woman who was abducted during robbery and killed in cemetery
An Alabama man has been put to death by lethal injection for the 1991 killing of a woman who was abducted during a robbery and then shot in a cemetery.
Willie B. Smith III, 52, received a lethal injection at Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore on Thursday night October 21.
He jerked twice from his gurney as officials injected him with midazolam, the Montgomery Advertiser reports, and he was pronounced dead at 9.47pm local time.
Smith reportedly did not have any last words and refused a last meal before his execution on Thursday. It was his second execution date since February 11.
On that date, Smith was already in a holding cell near the death chamber and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with his appeal that he could not be put to death without his pastor present.
This time, the nation’s highest court rejected a late request for a stay by his lawyers, who had argued that the execution should be blocked on grounds that Smith had an intellectual disability.
He had his spiritual adviser, Pastor Robert Wiley, with him at his execution Thursday night, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, who put a hand on Smith’s leg at the beginning of the execution.
Smith was convicted in 1992 of kidnapping and murdering 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham.
Prosecutors said he had a shotgun when he abducted Johnson in October 1991 from an ATM location in the Birmingham area. He and an accomplice forced Johnson into a trunk, then had her recite her ATM number to take money from the account.
They withdrew about $80 from her account before driving her to a cemetery, where Smith then shot Johnson – who was still in the trunk- in the back of the head and burned the vehicle in an attempt to remove his fingerprints.
According to court documents, Smith was afraid she was going to call the police about the robbery.
Johnson was the daughter of a Birmingham police officer.
‘Sharma Ruth Johnson was abducted at gunpoint, threatened while in the trunk of the car, terrorized, assaulted, and ultimately, Willie B. Smith, III brutally killed her,’ Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement issued after the execution.
‘In that final moment of this young lady´s short life, Mr. Smith, after learning Ms. Johnson was the daughter of a law enforcement officer, made the choice to put a shotgun to her head, stealing this woman´s future.’
‘The evidence in this case was overwhelming, and justice has been rightfully served,’ she added.
Shelley Luna, a friend of Johnson’s, described her to the Advertiser as ‘the most humble person, very soft-spoken, very kind.’
‘She just kind of oozed sweetness,’ Luna said. ‘Anybody that crossed her path would say that … She was the easiest person in the world to be friends with and talk to. It just makes her murder that much harder – you always wonder why do bad things happen to good people?’
In a statement read by Alabama department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn before the execution, Johnson’s family said: ‘After waiting for 30 years, justice has been served.’
Her family was present at the execution, Dunn said, but wanted to remain anonymous.