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Loaded Gun Found in Killer’s Typewriter After Execution

May 26, 1995

JARRATT, Va. (AP) _ An hour after the execution of a killer who took part in three escape attempts, a loaded pistol was found hidden in his typewriter. Willie Lloyd Turner was executed by injection Thursday night for the 1978 murder of a jewelry store owner. He made no final statement.

His lawyer, Walter Walvick, was given Turner’s personal effects after his death, including the typewriter. The attorney said that about 30 minutes before the execution, Turner told him to look in the back of the typewriter after he took it to his motel room.

Walvick said a .32-caliber revolver wrapped in tissue was tucked in a secret compartment behind the typewriter ribbon. He said there were six bullets in the wooden-handled gun and 12 extra bullets in a plastic bag beneath the weapon.

On a piece of paper under the bullets, Turner had written the word ``Smile.″

Jim Jones, spokesman for the state Corrections Department, said there would be no comment on Walvick’s account until an investigation was conducted.

The typewriter had been outside Turner’s cell in the death house, but he could reach it through the bars, Walvick said.

Walvick said Turner told a prison official shortly before the execution, ``I’m letting you do this to me.″

``I realize now what he meant,″ the attorney said.

He said he had no idea how Turner got the gun. Two reporters were with Walvick when he found it.

``In a way it was almost a kind of vindication to see that there. It confirms my judgment″ that Turner was a changed person, Walvick said.

``If he was this really awful person that everybody said, he could have blown somebody away.″

Turner, 49, was convicted of murdering W. Jack Smith Jr. during a botched robbery of his Franklin jewelry store. A police officer saw Turner shoot Smith three times.

He took part in three escape attempts, including a 1984 breakout of six death-row inmates. Turner did not flee with the other six inmates, but prison officials said he helped plan the escape.

He was executed six hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his claim that spending more than 15 years on death row _ longer than any of Virginia’s 56 condemned inmates _ amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Anderson III had likened Turner’s argument to that of a man who kills his parents and then ``pleads for mercy because he is now an orphan.″

But a similar argument in April resulted in a Supreme Court stay for Texas inmate Clarence Lackey, who has spent 17 years on death row.

Turner said he had too much pride to ask Gov. George Allen for clemency.

Two members of Smith’s family witnessed the execution in a room separate from the official witnesses, corrections officials said. Their names were withheld at their request.

In a statement issued after the execution, Smith’s family said, ``Tonight, we can move on with our lives knowing that _ despite the many delays and frustrations _ justice has been determined and carried out.″

Six years after Turner’s 1980 conviction and death sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him resentenced because of possible racial bias by the jury. Turner is black; Smith was white. In 1987, a new jury again sentenced him to death.

Turner was the 26th inmate executed in Virginia and the 282nd nationally since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Only Texas and Florida have executed more inmates than Virginia, which resumed executions in 1982.

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