Third U.S. execution since Oklahoma bungle scheduled for tonight
Chair used for lethal injection executions [AFP]

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - A man convicted of killing his wife and her 5-year-old son nearly 30 years ago is set to die by injection in Florida on Wednesday evening, the third person to face execution in 24 hours in separate cases across the South.

John R. Henry's death also would mark the third U.S. execution since a botched injection in Oklahoma in April renewed a national debate over capital punishment.

Henry, 63, served eight years for manslaughter in the slaying of his common-law wife and was on parole when he committed the double murder a few days before Christmas 1985.

Henry's attorneys sought to have him declared mentally unfit for execution but the Florida Supreme Court rejected his latest round of appeals.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta turned down a late plea for a stay of execution on Tuesday.

Henry was condemned for fatally stabbing his wife, Suzanne Henry, at her home in Zephyrhills. He then abducted her son by a previous relationship, Eugene Christian, and stabbed the boy to death with the same knife several hours later.

Two murderers, one in Georgia and the other in Missouri, were put to death less than a day earlier.

Georgia inmate Marcus Wellons, 58, convicted of the 1989 rape and strangulation of a 15-year-old neighbor he abducted while she was walking to her school bus stop, was executed Tuesday night by injection. The procedure went smoothly, a state corrections official said.

A little more than an hour later at a state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri, John Winfield, 46, met the same fate for killing two women and leaving his ex-girlfriend blind and disfigured in a 1996 rampage.

The cases of Wellons and Winfield drew greater attention than most because they were the first executions since killer and rapist Clayton Lockett died on April 29 in a mishandled execution in Oklahoma that sparked an uproar among opponents of the death penalty.

Lockett suffered an apparent heart attack and died about 30 minutes after Oklahoma prison officials had halted his execution because of problems in administering the lethal injection. A preliminary autopsy released by his lawyers last week showed the state failed to properly insert an intravenous line to deliver the fatal dose of medication.

Wellons and Winfield brought the number of executions in the United States this year to 22, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Bill Cotterell and Steve Gorman Editing by David Adams abd Bill Trott)

[Image AFP]