Alabama mail-bomber the oldest executed in US modern times

An Alabama man convicted of sending mail bombs during a wave of Southern terror has been executed for killing a federal judge, becoming the oldest prisoner put to death in the U.S. in modern times.

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 9:43 AM

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man convicted of sending mail bombs during a wave of Southern terror has been executed for killing a federal judge, becoming the oldest prisoner put to death in the U.S. in modern times.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, was pronounced dead at 8:42 p.m. following an injection at the Alabama prison at Atmore. He had no last statement and did not respond when an official asked if he had any last words shortly before the chemicals began flowing.

Authorities said Moody sent out four mail bombs in December of 1989, killing Judge Robert S. Vance, a member of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Alabama; and Robert E. Robinson, a black civil rights attorney from Savannah, Georgia. Two other bombs, including one mailed to the NAACP office in Jacksonville, Florida, were intercepted and did not explode.

Moody was convicted in 1991 in federal court on dozens of bomb-related charges and sentenced to seven life terms plus 400 years.

Five years later, he was sentenced to death in state court for Vance's murder. Alabama prosecutors described Moody as a meticulous coward who killed by mail because of his obsession with getting revenge on the legal system, and then committed additional package bombings to make it look like the killings were racially motivated.

Moody became the oldest U.S. inmate put to death since executions resumed in the U.S. in the 1970s, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center. His attorneys argued in court filings and a clemency petition to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey that his age and vein condition would make lethal injection more difficult.

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily stayed execution plans Thursday evening to consider Moody's late appeals, but later lifted the stay without comment, allowing the execution to go forward.

Vance was at his kitchen table in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on Dec. 16, 1989, when he opened a package after a morning of errands and yard work.

The explosion ripped through the home near Birmingham, killing Vance instantly and severely injuring his wife, Helen. Prosecutors said Moody, who had attended law school, had a grudge against the legal system because the 11th Circuit refused to overturn a 1972 pipe-bomb possession conviction that prevented him from practicing law.

Vance's son, Robert Vance Jr., now a circuit judge in Jefferson County and Democratic candidate for chief justice in Alabama, said it's important that people remember how his father lived, not just how he died.

"He was a great judge, a great lawyer before that, and a great father," he said earlier as the execution loomed. As chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party in the 1960s and 1970s, Vance worked to bring African Americans into the party and often "butted heads" with segregationist Gov. George Wallace, his son said.

Friends said the senior Vance quietly fought for the rights of the underprivileged, as both a jurist and a politician.

Moody had always maintained his innocence.

In recent weeks, Moody had sent a letter to the younger Vance claiming he was the innocent victim of a government conspiracy. "Had my Dad been murdered, I would want to know who had done it," Moody wrote. The younger Vance said he put the letter in the trash.

Vance said he had to make peace with his father's death, but has no doubt Moody is guilty. He did not witness the execution.

The lethal injection procedure began at 8:16 p.m. Moody did not open his eyes or respond as the warden read his death warrant and asked him if he had any last words.

Moody's attorney, Spencer Hahn, said he wanted to know what the prison system "gave him before to knock him out and prevent him from getting to give his last words. There was no dignity in that room. This dishonored the memory of Judge Vance and Mr. Robinson," Hahn said.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said Moody was not given any sedatives.

Moody's attorneys had asked the nation's highest court to stay his execution in order to review whether his federal sentence, which was handed down first, could be interrupted. They also argued that the aggravating factors used to impose a death sentence were improper.

And in their unsuccessful clemency petition, they argued that his victim was opposed to the death penalty, so halting the execution would honor Vance's beliefs. Vance's son said his father opposed the death penalty personally, but he also believed in following the law.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday night that after nearly 30 years, "Tonight, Mr. Moody's appeals finally came to a rightful end. Justice has been served."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497379

Reported Deaths: 9907
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34085530
DeSoto31806398
Hinds31796621
Jackson24303377
Rankin21852387
Lee15413233
Madison14513278
Jones13770241
Forrest13401250
Lauderdale11936314
Lowndes10908184
Lamar10461135
Pearl River9428237
Lafayette8450137
Hancock7690126
Washington7361156
Oktibbeha7110129
Monroe6713173
Warren6635175
Neshoba6606204
Pontotoc6603101
Panola6458131
Marshall6378132
Bolivar6264145
Union595194
Pike5780152
Alcorn5630100
Lincoln5416134
George490479
Scott470698
Tippah464981
Prentiss464181
Leflore4626143
Itawamba4590104
Adams4570119
Tate4539109
Copiah444691
Simpson4419116
Wayne438572
Yazoo437586
Covington427194
Sunflower4215104
Marion4206107
Coahoma4114104
Leake407287
Newton380879
Grenada3691108
Stone358264
Tishomingo355991
Attala330189
Jasper328065
Winston312891
Clay305875
Chickasaw296567
Clarke290294
Calhoun277645
Holmes266587
Smith262550
Yalobusha232347
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217663
Greene215448
Lawrence211140
Perry204555
Amite203454
Webster201645
Noxubee184940
Montgomery178956
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167338
Tunica158539
Benton147038
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131037
Humphreys128838
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104339
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 811551

Reported Deaths: 15101
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1138721885
Mobile720161315
Madison51829685
Shelby37203339
Baldwin37018538
Tuscaloosa34853599
Montgomery33879718
Lee23097239
Calhoun22095468
Morgan20584368
Etowah19727496
Marshall18224298
Houston17270405
St. Clair15884337
Cullman15257289
Limestone15177197
Elmore14944283
Lauderdale14060294
Talladega13653270
DeKalb12530258
Walker11055363
Blount10071174
Autauga9874146
Jackson9760177
Coffee9171188
Dale8850180
Colbert8768200
Tallapoosa7028194
Escambia6714127
Covington6661179
Chilton6571160
Russell623458
Franklin5926105
Chambers5553142
Marion4942126
Dallas4848199
Clarke472681
Pike4713105
Geneva4557126
Winston4456101
Lawrence4247116
Bibb421186
Barbour355274
Marengo333889
Monroe329062
Randolph324663
Butler323694
Pickens313479
Henry310365
Hale308586
Cherokee299257
Fayette289779
Washington250850
Cleburne245758
Crenshaw243075
Clay238867
Macon229862
Lamar214846
Conecuh185051
Coosa177338
Lowndes173061
Wilcox166738
Bullock151744
Perry137940
Sumter130738
Greene125344
Choctaw86527
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