Charles Bounds, husband of kidnapping and murder victim Mary Bounds speaks to the media as his daughter Jena Watson, right, C. Darryl Neely , far left, and Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps look on, Wednesday in Parchman. Berry is the second U.S. inmate executed since the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's lethal injection procedure in April. (AP Photo/Charles Smith)
BY ERROL CASTENS
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
PARCHMAN – Earl Wesley Berry was declared dead by lethal injection at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday – a quieter death than was afforded Mary Bounds.
Berry was executed for the 1987 kidnapping and murder of Bounds, a Houston woman, who was attacked and abducted as she left church. Sheriff Jimmy Simmons, who was a deputy when he investigated the crime, said footprints were still visible on her face from the brutal beating that killed her.
Death penalty opponents protested and prayed outside the media center at Parchman. After the execution, Bounds' daughter answered their opposition when she spoke to the media.
“I kept thinking how much more humane capital punishment is than what my mother suffered,” said Jena Watson, who witnessed the execution. “He was just lying there and went to sleep.
Berry was already strapped onto a table when Watson, her daughter, state and local officials and media witnesses entered adjacent rooms about 6 p.m. He never opened his eyes and never moved except to speak twice.
When told he had five minutes to say anything, he answered, “No comment.” Daryl Neely, a spokesman with Gov. Haley Barbour's office, was one of several people in the execution chamber and added that Berry had said before the procedure began, “It's in God's hands now.”
Officials reported that Berry was unremorseful to the end.
Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said, “I asked him, him looking into my eyes, Inmate Berry, do you have any remorse for what you did to Mrs. Bounds?' He said, No, and I think after 21 years, I've paid enough.'”
Attorney General Jim Hood said minutes after the pronouncement of death that Berry had “played us” until the end.
“All day he'd been entirely lucid,” Hood said. “When I walked in and informed him that all his appeals were exhausted, he started acting crazy. He was trying to fake us again.”
Berry's mother, one of his five brothers, a sister-in-law, two family friends and two attorneys visited him on his final day. Of that group, only the attorneys witnessed his death. None spoke to the media.
Berry's body will be returned for burial in the family plot at a rural Webster County cemetery.
No stay this time
Last fall, Berry had been less than 20 minutes from a scheduled execution when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to consider whether lethal injection might constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
“What was clearly inhumane about the stay was what the victim's family went through,” Neely said before the execution. “It's a hardship in what it puts on the victims' families. We think it would be very inhumane for them to gather here again at 6 p.m. after a stay.”
Before 5 p.m., the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected Berry's last appeals, and Gov. Barbour had earlier denied a request for clemency. In his letter to Berry, Barbour said, “May God have mercy on your soul and grant you forgiveness.”