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Arkansas Mass Murderer, Texas Killer Executed After Refusing Appeals

June 26, 1990

VARNER, Ark. (AP) _ R. Gene Simmons, who murdered 14 relatives and two other people in a Christmastime 1987 rampage, was put to death by injection after refusing all appeals and pleading for a swift execution.

Simmons, 49, was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m. after a brief statement: ″Justice delayed finally be done is justifiable homicide.″

In Texas, James Smith, 37-year-old former taxi driver and tarot-card reader who killed a Houston businessman man in 1983, was executed by injection at 12:31 a.m. today. He, too, had refused all appeals.

″I go to my death without begging for my life,″ he said in a statement. ″I will not humiliate myself. I will let no man break me.″

The two executions brought to 132 the number of people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 allowed states to resume use of capital punishment.

The execution of Simmons was the second in Arkansas in a week. The June 18 electrocution of John Edward Swindler was the state’s first execution in 26 years.

Unlike Swindler, Simmons was convicted after the state’s method of execution was changed to lethal injection.

Simmons shot, clubbed, shot at or strangled 21 people, 16 of whom died. The dead included his wife, Becky, four of his daughters, three of his sons and four of his grandchildren. Eight victims were children, ages 1 to 17.

The killings were believed to have occurred between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28, 1987.

After his first conviction, Simmons said he would not appeal and asked that no one interfere. ″I only ask for what I deserve,″ he told the court. ″Let the torture and suffering in me end. Please allow me the right to be at peace.″

Death penalty foes intervened and delayed Simmons’ execution for about two years.

Simmons went to his death without giving a motive for the slayings. When he was arrested at the end of the killing spree, he reportedly told a woman he had held hostage, ″It’s all over now. I’ve gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me.″

In Texas, Smith was put to death in Huntsville for the slaying of Larry Rohus. He winked, smiled to reporters and muttered ″Hare Krishna″ as he was injected.

He denied being a killer and said that when people ″wake up to the reality of executions the price to be paid will be a dear one.″

Witnesses said Smith showed up at Rohus’ insurance office and demanded money. When Rohus, 44, complied and began walking away, Smith summoned him back, then shot him through the heart as Rohus begged for his life.

Smith came within six hours of dying in 1988 before death penalty opponents persuaded his mother to seek legal help to save her son. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution.

However, in a recent ruling in an Arkansas case, the high court said that inmates have the right to refuse appeals and may volunteer to be put to death.

Smith’s mother, Alexine Hamilton, failed again last weekend to delay her son’s death when a Texas appeals court and a federal judge rejected arguments that Smith is incompetent to decide whether he should die.

Smith said last week that he wants to die because ″do-gooders″ already have robbed him of time in the next world.

″After all this unnecessary suffering and abuse here on death row, I’m not going to change my mind,″ Smith said.

On Monday, Smith was re-evaluated by a psychiatrist and pronounced competent, Assistant Texas Attorney General Bob Walt said.

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