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Nevada Killer, 26, Executed by Injection

From Times Wire Services

Convicted killer Thomas Baal was put to death by injection Sunday after sending a greeting to his parents, who had tried to block the execution he said he wanted.

Baal, 26, was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. PDT, nine minutes after a mixture of three lethal drugs was pumped through tubes into his arms as he lay strapped to a table in the former gas chamber at the Nevada State Prison.

Warden Pete Demosthenes said Baal’s last words were “Send my love to my mama and my papa.” State Prison Director Ron Angelone added that Baal told him to tell his parents, “Jesus was taking him home and he was not scared.”

Baal was placed on the table 25 minutes before the injection started. He looked through viewing windows at the 24 witnesses and mouthed words that were inaudible.

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As he was being strapped to a table in the glass-enclosed death chamber, Baal turned to the prosecutor in his case, Dan Seaton, and the seven other witnesses and 12 journalists outside the chamber, and said, “I love you all.”

Angelone said that the prisoner was “praying to the end.”

Baal was the 129th person executed in the United States and the fifth in Nevada since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 cleared the way for states to resume use of the death penalty.

He was sentenced to death for the February, 1988, robbery and murder of Frances Maves in Las Vegas, who was stabbed eight times. He had said he was on drugs at the time.

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Baal spent his final night on the telephone talking to friends and praying. His last meal, around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, consisted of a combination pizza with anchovies, apple pie, chocolate ice cream, jelly doughnuts and several soft drinks.

Andy Anderson of Reno, an opponent of capital punishment, protested the execution by kneeling on the hood of his car outside the prison. Three others joined the modest protest.

The execution came 10 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to erase a federal appeals court ruling blocking the execution.

The high court threw out a stay granted Saturday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco at the request of Edwin and Doris Baal of Mesa, Colo., over their son’s objections.

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The Supreme Court’s majority ruling held that there was no basis for the appellate court conclusion that a lower federal court in Reno erred in not holding a hearing to consider Baal’s mental competence to waive efforts for appeal.

The Supreme Court was asked by the Nevada attorney general’s office to cancel the stay. The prosecution petition included a statement from Baal that he was not insane or incompetent and “I want to have this execution over with so that I can pay my debt.”

His parents said they were shocked that prosecutors went to their son’s last-night cell to get the statement. They contended that Baal suffered from long-term mental problems and brain damage and that those conditions prevented him from making a rational decision about his appeals.

Maves, 34, died Feb. 26, 1988, when she was robbed and stabbed while inspecting her bus at the Hughes Air Terminal in Las Vegas.

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According to Baal, she gave him $20 when he asked for money, but he demanded more and a struggle ensued. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he said, according to his confession. “Now you pay. I sentence you to death.”

LAWYERS FAULTED

Many defense lawyers who handle capital punishment cases in the South lack experience, a law journal says. A33


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