US

Alabama Sets New Execution Date for Sword-and-Dagger Slaying

By The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY—The Alabama Supreme Court has set a new lethal injection date for a man convicted in the 1991 sword-and-dagger slaying of a pastor.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the court on Monday moved Christopher Lee Price’s execution to May 30. Price was set to be executed last month but a last-minute stay delayed his death.

Price asked to die by nitrogen hypoxia, a method Alabama has authorized but not developed. His lawyers argued it would be less painful than Alabama’s “botched” lethal injections.

death penalty room closed
Staff members dismantle the death row lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., on March 13, 2019. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images)

The state successfully argued that Price missed a deadline to request nitrogen, but its death warrant expired before a post-midnight Supreme Court ruling vacating the stay.

Price killed Church of Christ pastor Bill Lynn as he prepared Christmas gifts for his grandchildren.

Death Warrant Expired

A federal judge blocked the execution of Price to weigh his challenge to Alabama’s lethal injection procedure.

Justices voted 5-4 on the morning of April 12, to let the execution proceed, but the death warrant had expired two hours earlier at the stroke of midnight.

The Supreme Court majority, in vacating the lower court’s stay, sided with the state and said Price had waited too late to bring his challenge.

Justices on April 1 voted 5-4 against a Missouri inmate who said lethal injection would cause severe pain because of a tumor in his throat. Justice Neil Gorsuch said judges should guard against efforts to use challenges to the method of execution “as tools to interpose unjustified delay.”

gorsuch and kavanaugh
Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh attend the State of the Union address in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the Capitol Building in Washington, on Feb. 5, 2019. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Alabama authorized nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 as an alternative for carrying out death sentences, but has yet to try it and hasn’t developed procedures to do so.

When Alabama authorized the new execution method, it gave inmates a 30-day window to request execution by nitrogen and 48 of the more than 170 inmates on death row did so, according to court filings.

Alabama contends that Price missed the deadline to request nitrogen, and that even though nitrogen hypoxia is authorized under state law, it is currently unavailable because the state has been unable to “procure the means for executing someone with nitrogen gas.”

The governor and state Attorney General Steve Marshall said they would continue to pursue the death sentence for Price.

Christopher Lee Price
Alabama Department of Corrections shows Christopher Lee Price. (Alabama Department of Corrections/File photo via AP)

“His horrendous crime left Pastor Lynn’s wife and family to grieve, and now, almost 30 years later, the family is still left with no closure,” Ivey said.

Prosecutors said Lynn, 57, was at his Fayette County home getting toys ready for his grandchildren when the power was cut. Lynn went outside to check the fuse box when he was killed, according to court filings.

Lynn’s wife, Bessie Lynn, testified that she was in an upstairs bedroom watching television when she heard a noise. She said she looked out a window and saw a person dressed in black in a karate stance, holding a sword above her husband’s head.

Bessie Lynn said she went outside to help her husband, but two men ordered her back in the house and demanded money and any jewelry and weapons they had. An autopsy showed that Lynn had been cut or stabbed more than 30 times.

A second man, Kelvin Coleman, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Alabama has carried out one execution so far this year, executing Dominique Ray in February for the 1995 murder of a 15-year-old girl.

Associated Press writer Kim Chandler contributed to this report.