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Convicted Killer Executed in Virginia, But Only on Second Try

August 23, 1991 GMT

JARRATT, Va. (AP) _ A convicted killer died in Virginia’s electric chair late Thursday, but only after prison officials carried out the electrocution procedure twice. In Missouri, a man was put to death by injection several hours later for the killings of four cafeteria workers.

In Virginia, a physician at Greensville Correctional Center checked Derick Lynn Peterson’s pulse and determined he was still alive after being given the normal dose of electricity used to execute people - 1,725 volts for 10 seconds and 240 volts for about 90 seconds.

The entire process then was repeated and Peterson, 30, was pronounced dead, said witnesses including an Associated Press reporter.

Jean Clarke, operations director at the prison, confirmed witnesses’ observations but wouldn’t elaborate.

Peterson was executed for the 1982 murder of a supermarket manager.

In Missouri, meanwhile, Maurice Oscar Byrd, 36, died by injection early Friday at Potosi Correctional Center for the killings of four Missouri cafeteria workers in 1980.

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday had refused to consider last-ditch appeals by Peterson and Byrd. Justice Thurgood Marshall dissented.

In Virginia, an angry Russ Ford, director of chaplain services for state prisons, told reporters just after the execution that his final private moments with Peterson were interrupted by prison personnel, who opened the blinds to the condemned man’s cell.

″I’m in rage,″ Ford said. ″This process is dehumanizing.″

Ford said he has been with 11 condemned men just before they died, and this was the first time their last moments were intruded upon.

Asked about Ford’s complaints, Ms. Clarke said: ″I’m not aware of that.″

A federal judge had stayed Peterson’s execution earlier Thursday, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, saying Peterson shouldn’t have waited until this week to start a new round of appeals.

In an interview this week, Peterson said the shooting of the Hampton, Va., grocery store manager was accidental. He said he received the death penalty because he was black.

In Missouri, Byrd had several stays of execution since being sentenced in 1982. But last week, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved a final stay and refused to hear any further appeals. The full court also refused to hear appeals Wednesday.


Authorities said that during a cafeteria robbery in suburban St. Louis, Byrd herded four workers into an office, then gunned them down one-by-one. The bodies were stacked like cordwood, they said.

Byrd confessed to the murders in 1981 after being arrested in Savannah, Ga., for the slaying of a liquor store employee.

Before Thursday, there were 150 executions nationwide since the Supreme Court let states resume capital punishment in 1976.