A gay man convicted in a 1993 shooting death in Northampton County, N.C., said just one word in the final minutes of his life, turning to greet one of his lawyers and then turning back to stare at the ceiling of the death chamber. Edward Hartman, 38, was executed by injection at Central Prison in Raleigh.
He was pronounced dead at 2:14 a.m., Department of Correction spokeswoman Pam Walker said. Hartman was sentenced to die for the slaying of 77-year-old Herman Smith Jr. in the community of Pinetops. Smith had been a former boyfriend of Hartman's mother, and Hartman was living at his house.
Hartman's attorney, Heather Wells, had tried to stop the execution by arguing that Hartman had received the death penalty because of antigay bias by prosecutors during his trial. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal Thursday that alleged discrimination based on Hartman's homosexuality. Gov. Mike Easley denied clemency for Hartman on Thursday, declining to reduce Hartman's sentence to life in prison. During the original trial a prosecutor repeatedly referred to Hartman's sexual orientation, even though it had nothing to do with Smith's death, Wells said. "From jury selection through the cross-examination of several penalty-phase witnesses, the prosecution repeatedly made references to Eddie's homosexuality," Wells said. "Eddie's homosexuality has no relevance to the crime or the circumstances surrounding the crime and no relevance to whether he should live or die." Gay rights groups protested the sentence, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the U.S. government to intervene so the commission could investigate.
"This is a case where the victim was 77 years old and killed in his home," Northampton County prosecutor Valerie Mitchell Asbell said. "This killing was premeditated. It was a horrible killing."
Hartman told authorities he drank 16 cans of beer before he shot Smith in the head at close range while the man sat in a recliner watching television. Hartman told a friend that Smith carried thousands of dollars in his pocket, court records show. He took the man's car and left the body in the chair. He eventually buried the body in a horse stable and led authorities there after learning he was a suspect.
Hartman issued no final statement before his execution. He appeared to say "Hi" or "Hey" to attorney Wells through a window shortly after he was brought into the death chamber and then smiled before
turning away. None of Hartman's family witnessed the execution. Larry Smith, Herman Smith's son, watched stoically. He and the other witnesses declined to comment after Hartman's death. About 100 people opposed to the death penalty gathered outside the prison late Thursday, many holding candles and singing. Eight or nine protesters sat in a driveway blocking traffic into the prison. No arrests were reported. North Carolina has executed four people this year and 27 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.